Illicit cigarette problem worsens

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THE number of illicit cigarettes found in Sunderland has increased, according to a new report.

Figures from MSIntelligence, a Swiss-based brand protection company, show that non-domestic cigarettes discovered through an empty discarded pack collection had gone up from 9.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2011 to 11.2 per cent in the same period this year.

It is estimated by HMRC that more than £3billion worth of tax revenue is lost each year because of illegal tobacco sales.

The Government is currently looking into introducing plain packaging for cigarettes.

However, some researchers say it will not drive down sales of non-tax- paid cigarettes.

Will O’Reilly, a former detective chief inspector at Scotland Yard, has been carrying out research into the issue on behalf of Philip Morris International since November.

Mr O’Reilly said: “After a number of years in decline, there has been a sharp rise in illicit cigarettes.

“That’s partly down to the economy.

“People can’t afford the real product and it is easier for counterfeiters to copy the packets.

“Plans for plain packaging are simply playing into the hands of organised criminals and counterfeiters because it will be so much easier to make copies.”