CAMPAIGNERS fighting the imposition of plain tobacco packaging claim that the use of bootlegged, smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes in Bradford has doubled.

A survey of discarded packs has revealed that the number rose from 14.5 per cent at the end of 2013 to 28.1 per cent in the final quarter of 2014.

An alliance of packaging companies, including Weidenhammer Packaging in Bradford, have been warning that introducing plain packs would push up the use of counterfeit products - which contribute nothing to the Treasury.

Public health minister Jane Ellison announced last month the Government’s intention to have regulations on plain packaging passed by parliament before the general election after MPs voted in favour of the move.

She said plain packaging was a “proportionate and justified response” because of the health risks associated with smoking.

But an empty discarded pack collection survey new MSIntelligence survey , counting packets from waste bins and from the streets - funded by leading tobacco companies- shows 24.5 per cent of all packs in Yorkshire are either illegal or bought outside the UK.

About 70 members of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents lobbied MPs last week in a last-ditch attempt to block plain packaging legislation .

Former Scotland Yard chief inspector Will O'Reilly, who now conducts research on the impact of plain packs for tobacco giant Philip Morris, warned that the growing use of illicit tobacco products, many smuggled into the country by the container load by organised crime and terrorist groups, was helping to fund crime.

“People don’t necessarily understand the consequences of purchasing illegal tobacco. If you buy a cheap packet of cigarettes that money ends up supporting organised crime. Every cigarette funds the availability of drugs on our streets, gun crime or terrorist attacks, making our communities and our streets less safe," he said.

“The widespread availability of illicit tobacco has a devastating impact on our local communities. It not only undermines legitimate retailers but leads to a knock on effect in local crime generally, such as we have seen before with street dealing in drugs and how that can devastate a community."

Mike Ridgway, an Ilkley-based director of the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance and spokesman for several packaging manufacturers, accused ministers of planing plain packaging legislation for political, rather than health, reasons.

He is in Australia studying the impact of plain packaging legislation there.

He said: "Throughout this whole lengthy debate the Government has consistently stated that any additional regulation of tobacco products must be based upon evidence but where is the conclusive evidence that packaging influences smoking trends?

"It is clear that the evidence is inconclusive and more data is needed to support an attack on branded products. The packaging industry stands in the middle of this situation and will undoubtedly be the loser if the proposals become law.

"Even at this late stage and with more official information emulating from Australia, backed up by Government statistics, it will be hoped that pressure on the Government to follow its original decision to act on evidence will be undertaken rather than a dubious policy that attracts headlines."