Black market cigarettes on the increase

Cigarette survey
Cigarette survey

The number of people smoking illicit cigarettes in Eastbourne is among the highest in the country.

The town is the 17th worst town in the country according to latest statistics which show the south east is seeing black market cigarette packs soar.

A collection of empty discarded packs is showing an increase of bootlegged, smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes across the area.

Campaigners say a third of all cigarettes smoked in the South East are contributing nothing to the exchequer whatsoever.

The survey also shows the level of non-duty paid cigarettes increased nationally to 26.4 per cent – the highest level recorded since the survey started in 2008.

The figures do not include hand-rolled tobacco, for which HMRC estimates that as much as half of UK consumption is sourced on the black market.

For the survey more than 12,000 packs from streets and easy access bins were tested in 105 towns and cities.

“Cheap illegal cigarettes are often sold on street corners and in ‘fag houses’ meaning that anybody can have access to them,” said a spokesperson for MSIntelligence which carried out the survey.

“Criminal gangs are known to routinely target children. Tobacco products are relatively small, high-value items and are smuggled in extremely large quantities, depriving the Treasury of billions of pounds in tax revenues.

“Just as armed robberies of the 70s and 80s made way for the drugs trade and large scale fraud in the 90s, so a new crime of choice has emerged, which carries even less risk and even greater profits.

“The trade in illicit tobacco has become the primary source of revenue for some criminal gangs and terrorist groups and it has already reached epidemic proportions in parts of the UK.”

Trading standards regularly carries out checks across Eastbourne to try and stamp out black market cigarettes.