More than a quarter of tobacco smoked in the UK is non-duty paid, according to estimates from Japan Tobacco International.
JTI found that on average, 27% of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco avoided UK taxes.
And it warned that expected tax hikes in the Budget on March 21 could encourage more duty fraud by raising tobacco prices even further ahead of other EU countries.
UK managing director Martin Southgate said: “Criminal gangs would welcome another boost to their ill-gotten profits and with many cigarette packs sold in the UK now over £7, a fourth tax increase in two years will help them market their fakes to even more customers, including children.
“There is a tobacco display ban on the horizon and a consultation planned for the spring to discuss options to introduce uniform packaging. Increasing the tax just doesn’t make any sense. Why make it easier for criminals to make money? The government should be helping us to eradicate this crime by using their powers to seize the profits made by these criminals and put them in jail for a length of time that befits this serious crime.”
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