The grip of the illegal tobacco trade has been revealed in an investigation by manufacturers JTI.

The operation in Staffordshire found that one in three retailers have flogged 'dodgy baccy'.

The findings also show that 15 per cent of people have bought cigarettes or tobacco from someone selling them in a pub.

More than half of the 450 smokers surveyed (53 per cent) said they would not report if they were offered illegal tobacco, even though it could fund organised crime.

In addition, 43 per cent have bought cigarettes with foreign language health warnings on the pack, and 24 per cent have bought tobacco from family or friends who had been abroad.

Mystery shopping carried out by JTI showed that 17 out of the 48 stores visited in Stoke were selling illegal tobacco.

The typical price for a pack of illegal cigarettes was £3.50 (versus about £8 for genuine products) while a 50g pack of illegal roll your own tobacco (RYO) was either £4 or £4.50 (versus £21).

Steve Wilkins, JTI's anti-illegal trade operations director, said: "The availability of cheap illegal tobacco across towns and cities in the UK is damaging local communities and along with retailers, suppliers and the Government we all have a role to play to combat the issue.

Anyone with information about this type of crime should contact HM Revenue & Customs' Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or Trading Standards on 03454 04 05 06."