AN MP has called for better enforcement against criminals involved in the sale of illegal tobacco.
Easington MP Grahame Morris is backing a report on illegal tobacco sales, called The Billion Pound Drop, which highlights how 16.5 per cent of cigarettes smoked in the North-East avoid UK tax.
This includes ‘cheap whites’ or counterfeits of well-known brands.
Counterfeit cigarettes are typically produced in China, and smuggled in to the UK by sea.
These fakes are often so good that smokers cannot tell the difference until they open the pack and smoke the cigarettes.
According to the report, illegal cigarettes are often sold through a variety of informal channels including car boot sales, markets, from people’s homes, clubs and in workplaces.
The report says illicit trade in the North-East has got worse in the past year.
Typically 85 per cent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes is tax, so with the financial pressures in today’s economic climate smokers go bargain-hunting without considering the consequences as to where and how fakes are made.
Mr Morris said: “I was interested to hear how the illegal trade in tobacco impacts Easington.
“Illegal tobacco causes a loss to the public purse, it brings crime into our communities and deprives local shops of much-needed trade.
“What’s more, it undermines the objectives of having high taxation on tobacco by making cheap unregulated tobacco widely available, and accessible to children.”