More than a quarter of retailers (28%) have seen a rise in customers openly asking for illicit tobacco and vapes, new research reveals.
Research from JTI, which questioned 250 convenience retailers, shows that 26% of retailers state that their store has been negatively impacted due to the sale of illicit tobacco and vapes by other businesses in the area, with 30% of retailers aware of one or more stores within a three-mile radius allegedly selling illicit products.
The study also reveals that 67% of retailers expect the proposed generational tobacco ban will lead to an increase in illicit tobacco activity.
In addition, the research finds 76% of retailers believe the main reason other retailers sold illicit tobacco or vape products was to boost sales, adding that customers appear increasingly tempted to buy these illicit products because they are cheaper than their legal equivalents.
Sarah Connor, Director of Communications at JTI UK, said: “There is currently a real concern amongst retailers around the policing of illicit trade, and with the proposed generation ban this fear is growing. In fact, 66% told us that they don’t believe the government has the required funding or resources to enforce the legislation and New Zealand, the only country in the world to introduce legislation for a Generational Ban, has chosen to repeal it.
“Retailers can play a vital role in combatting the illicit trade. We’re working closely with our retail partners to ensure that they are knowledgeable and confident in communicating the dangers of illegal products to their customers.”
The research also reveals that 72% of retailers surveyed said they would welcome more regulation around the selling of legal tobacco and vaping products. Stricter penalties and fines, more frequent visits from trading standards and strengthening border controls to reduce the supply of illegal products into the UK were the most-common responses from retailers in terms of support needed to help tackle the issue of illicit tobacco.
In addition, one in three retailers have implemented specific training programmes for their staff to identify and prevent the sale of illicit tobacco and vaping products, but more support from above was identified as necessary.
JTI is calling for stronger collaboration between the government and the tobacco industry to prevent the sales of illicit tobacco and vapes.