One in every five smokers in Scotland know that “illicit” or duty free cigarettes or tobacco are being sold locally, but only one in five of them (20 per cent) will report to the authorities.

Such ‘non-shop tobacco products’ are sold at prices much lower than their legitimate counterparts, which carry duty. The average price for ‘non-shop’ cigarettes (pack of 20) in Scotland is £4.15 compared to about £9.60 from traditional outlets.

But this illegal trade has a cost, with the Treasury losing out on £2.1 billion a year in unpaid duty, quarter of a billion pounds in lost duty in Scotland.

These are among the main findings of a major online survey conducted by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) of 12,000 smokers across the UK, 1,082 were in Scotland. There was input from the HM Revenue and Customs.

Organised crime is still responsible for much of the trade in counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco. But young people in the UK, are increasingly involved in the trade.

The survey found that 13 per cent of smokers surveyed stated that they were aware of under-18s buying or selling illicit tobacco locally in the last year. This represented an increase of 2 per cent since the last survey in 2015.

According to the TMA report, evidence suggests that the media is an effective conduit through which to communicate information on illicit tobacco and its potential impact on smokers.

This is important as there needs to be some public education on the subject.

The TMA, which represents the three biggest tobacco companies, said “Almost half of all Scottish smokers have no idea what restrictions there are on the amount of tobacco/ number of cigarettes they can bring into the UK legally.

“Almost half of all Scottish smokers believe that it is ok to buy tobacco overseas and bring it back to the UK to sell to friends and family.”

Paul Stockall, TMA’s Communications & Intelligence manager said the public had to be reminded of what is allowed “ We ran over the summer at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports telling people of the rules on what you can bring in, and that breaking these rules means they could be punished.”

But he said there also had to be greater sanctions the criminals involved.