A trade organisation representing independent retailers has called for a concerted effort to tackle the illicit tobacco market once and for all as a new report has shown that a 71% of smokers admit to buying smuggled products.

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “We are appalled that non UK duty paid tobacco is so easily available and that the black market continues to grow. This is a massive problem that needs to be addressed and we want to see the government, HMRC, police and trading standards making a concerted effort to tackle this real threat once and for all.

“Such a proliferation of black market tobacco products results in substantial sales losses for legitimate retailers as well as hefty losses for the Exchequer and potential serious health risks to those who smoke these products.”

According to the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s 2016 Anti Illicit Trade Report, one in five smokers (20% of respondents) said they were aware of illicit tobacco being sold in their area.

“The NFRN is dismayed that illegal cigarettes are being sold so brazenly,” Baxter added.

The report revealed that more than a third of respondents (37%) said they knew of illicit tobacco products being sold in corner shops and newsagents. Just under a third (31%) said they were aware that smuggled or counterfeit tobacco was available in pubs and a quarter said they had seen it on sale at markets and car boots.

“Any retailer who sells illegal tobacco in their store is giving the rest of the sector a bad name and in these instances we are fully supportive of manufacturers removing their gantries,” Baxter said.

Also of concern to the NFRN was the fact that while one in five smokers were aware of illicit tobacco being sold in their area, only 21% of them had reported this to the authorities in the past 12 months. For one in five of these this was because they did not know who to tell. More than half (58%) sad it was none of their business and 18% were concerned about getting the sellers into trouble.