THE Tobacco Retailers Alliance (TRA) is promoting a disturbing story of one in 10 corner shops at risk of closing due to sales lost to illegal tobacco ("Tobacco smugglers blamed for corner shop woes", The Herald, August 8).

Yet this dramatic claim falls apart under examination.

After a long campaign telling their members that counterfeit tobacco is damaging local shops, the TRA asked shopkeepers whether they thought their shop was at risk of closing due to counterfeit and smuggled tobacco. We are not told how they made sure of an unbiased sample or whether they just relied on their existing friends and contacts. Of those who responded, 92 were from Scotland. So the dramatic "one in 10" headline is based on nine individuals' personal opinion.

Why would the TRA make so much of such flimsy evidence, and then use it to argue against the level of tax on cigarettes? Why would their spokesperson claim that tobacco smuggling "continues to worsen" when the figures from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs show the illegal market has been declining for a decade?

Perhaps the answer is that the Tobacco Retailers Alliance is paid for by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco, three of the world's largest tobacco companies. Funnily enough, a quick glance at their website makes it perfectly clear that the TRA's primary role is to argue against regulation of tobacco.

If only the tobacco companies felt able to come forward and argue their own case, rather than hide behind front groups, then we might at least be able to have a more honest debate.

Sheila Duffy,

Chief Executive,

ASH Scotland,

8 Frederick Street,