I READ your article “1.9 million cigarette smuggling gang trial” published on March 30 with interest.

Members of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents 5,500 independent forecourts, are increasingly concerned about the amount of illicit tobacco on our streets and the direct impact it has on their businesses.

A survey carried out of PRA members this month has shown that 73 per cent believe illicit trade hurts their business and decreases their annual sales revenue with almost two thirds believing that the problem is getting worse.

Retailers are also increasingly opposed to Government proposals to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products and think it will harm honest retailers because it will fuel illicit trade.

Our contemporaries in Australia, the only country in the world to have introduced plain packaging, show these concerns are well founded.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) says 70 per cent of retailers have been negatively affected by plain packaging, with 67 per cent saying that the growth of the black market has had an impact on their business since plain packaging was introduced.

During the same period, the sale of illegal branded cigarettes has increased by 154 per cent, according to KPMG. Tobacco consumption has remained constant.

The more retailers hear about the impact of plain packaging in Australia the more opposed they are to seeing it introduced in the UK.

Brian Madderson Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, Great Portland Street, London.