MORE than 3000 jobs in as many as 700 small independent shops across the country could face the axe as a result of the introduction of legislation on plain packaging for tobacco.

Regional figures in a study carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) for tobacco firm Philip Morris predicted the loss of about £30 million of tobacco and non-tobacco revenues because of lower prices for legal tobacco, increased illicit trade and a shift by customers from convenience stores to larger shops as a result of increased transaction times and longer queues.

The job losses are most likely to be in city and ­suburban areas with a knock-on effect on shoppers who don't even buy tobacco products.

They could be forced to drive to the nearest supermarket for a morning paper and a pint of milk.

"Our findings show the potential impact of this plain packaging policy could be traumatic for the high street," said Oliver Hogan, Cebr head of microeconomics.

"And this new regional phase of our study reveals where the damage will fall.

"In Scotland alone, Cebr would expect the loss of £30m in tobacco and non-tobacco revenues to small independent retailers. The closures of these small retailers would deal a body blow to high streets across Scotland.

"The evidence supports our conclusion that tobacco customers will flock to illegal street vendors, buy bulk from abroad and make purchases from larger stores.

"Thousands will lack the patience as queues mount for the till in a small shop as a small staff tries to find the right cigarettes among the plain packaging."