The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for greater enforcement action against criminals dealing in illicit tobacco products.

It was responding to a report by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) that illicit tobacco products worth almost £1m were seized during its latest England-wide operation, an increase of 18% on a previous operation in 2014.

In total, 42% of premises visited in the intelligence-led operation were found to be selling illicit tobacco products, of which 57% were repeat offenders.

ACS chief executive James Lowman, said: “This report shows that there is an unacceptable illicit tobacco market in the UK undermining the majority of legitimate convenience retailers selling tobacco responsibly. We welcome intelligence-led enforcement activity by HMRC.

“These figures support our view that introducing a system of tobacco licensing would be a costly and bureaucratic waste of time while existing penalties for this serious crime are not being enforced.

“We have called on the Government to review the sanctions and powers available to HMRC for tackling illicit tobacco and non-duty alcohol and provide more funding for enforcement action. Where retailers are found to persistently trade in illicit product they should feel the full force of the law by losing their alcohol licence or receive a tobacco banning order.”