More than half of corner shop owners in East Anglia are aware of smuggled tobacco being sold, a survey has shown. The Tobacco Retailers Alliance study also found that 57% of shops said they were being undercut by the illegal traders who avoid paying tax.

Last year the UK Border Agency seized 300 million Kiss cigarettes in its central area which includes the Port of Felixstowe.

It also recovered 185 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco.

Ipswich newsagent John Beecroft said: “… The higher the prices go the more people will turn to getting their cigarettes from another source.”

He added: “The government has got to tighten up controls, police the areas where they know [illegal selling] is going on and try and stamp it out.”

Brian Hill, the border agency’s assistant director at Felixstowe, said: “Profits made from tobacco smuggling are often used to fund other criminal enterprises like drug or people trafficking.”

The survey also states that 52% of the region’s retailers are aware that “proxy selling” – in which an adult buys cigarettes on behalf or someone who is under 18 – is going on.