MORE than 25 per cent of all cigarettes in the area are either illegal or bought abroad, an investigation has found.
Retailers say it is having a huge effect on businesses as people are easily able to pick up black market cigarettes from pubs and market stalls.
The investigation by MSIntelligence, backed by cigarette manufacturers British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International, looked at discarded cigarette packets in The News area shows that, year-on-year, the amount of bootlegged, smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes is rising.
Amanda Howard is the owner of D&B Whites newsagent, in North Street, Havant.
She said: ‘It has a massive impact on retailers.
‘At the moment you can walk into any pub or market and buy cigarettes. People come back from abroad with suitcases loaded up and sell them in shops and pubs.
‘One bloke came in with a load of cigars he’d got abroad and didn’t want and asked me to swap them for cigarettes.
‘I explained we don’t do that sort of thing. We have people trying to sell to us regularly. I tell them, “this is my business and I only make five per cent as it is”.
‘We know when someone has come back from abroad with cigarettes to sell because, for a week, our sales will fall dramatically.’
The survey, which in total looked at 12,700 packets in 105 cities (an average of 120 packets per city) shows 25.2 per cent of all packs in Portsmouth and 32.4 per cent in Waterlooville are either illegal or purchased outside of the UK
Across the south east the figure is just under 25 per cent which means almost a quarter of all cigarettes smoked in the region contribute nothing to the exchequer.
The figures do not include hand-rolled tobacco. HMRC estimates as much as half of UK consumption comes from the black market.
Will O’Reilly, who conducted the research, said the money from illicit cigarettes funds organised crime, gun crime and terrorism.
He added: ‘The widespread availability of illicit tobacco has a devastating impact on our local communities.
‘It not only undermines legitimate retailers but leads to a knock-on effect in local crime generally, such as we have seen before with street dealing in drugs and how that can devastate a community.’