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MPs hit out at 'farcical' cigs smuggling battle

By Joe Churcher

MPs have complained of a "farcical" lack of action against tobacco manufacturers in a stinging assessment of Government efforts to tackle smuggling.

An investigation by the Commons home affairs select committee said failures in dealing with illicit cigarettes were "a matter of grave concern".

But it also suggested that concerns over boosting the black market should not trump public health considerations in the debate over plain packaging – which is being introduced in the Republic.

Rogue products smoked in the UK soared by 49% to a billion in 2012, it said, suggesting a reduction in enforcement action.

The committee was scathing of the failure to fine a single firm for deliberately oversupplying cigarettes to high-risk markets so they can be smuggled back to the UK.

The taxpayer loses out on around £2bn in unpaid duty because of the illegal trade.

"We are worried that not enough is being done by the Government and its appropriate agencies to combat the problem of tobacco smuggling at source," the cross-party group said.

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