The black market cigarette trade in Northampton is rocketing, according to a new report.
A new MSIntelligence survey, which was based on empty discarded packs of cigarettes, showed there had been an increased use of bootlegged, smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes in the Northampton area over the last year.
More than 12,000 cigarette packs from streets and bins were tested in 105 cities across the UK and the research showed over a quarter of all cigarettes smoked in the East Midlands are contributing nothing to the economy whatsoever.
The study revealed that 23.56 per cent of all packs of cigarettes in Northampton last year were either illegal or purchased outside of the UK, compared with 13.3 per cent in 2011.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council Trading Standards said: “Sales of illegal cigarettes are usually done under the counter, as the tobacco is often either smuggled or counterfeit and haven’t been put through proper quality control processes as to what they contain.
“This means that not only do sales of illegal tobacco harm the interests of honest businesses, they also pose a risk to your health.
“In many cases, it is significantly more dangerous than legitimate tobacco with high levels of nicotine, tar and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Some samples have even been found to contain rat droppings and asbestos.”
The figures in the study do not include hand-rolled tobacco, for which HM Revenue & Customs estimates that as much as half of UK consumption is sourced on the black market.
At the end of last year around 83,000 cigarettes were seized as part of a crackdown on illegal tobacco by Northamptonshire County Council’s Trading Standards in partnership with Northamptonshire Police.
At least 50,000 cigarettes were discovered at one premises hidden in a secret room and about 1,900 pouches of handrolling tobacco were also found during raids across the county. To report illicit goods call 08454 040506 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.