To those that argue the banning / prohibition of cigarettes would not lead to an increase in related crimes, read the article from todays Guardian and this while theyre still legal imagine if they were'nt. Gangsters prey on young women to smuggle cigarettes UK border officials seize 50 million cigarettes a month amid boom in lucrative crime Cigarette smuggling into Britain is becoming so lucrative that growing numbers of young women are being offered free summer holidays by criminals in return for trafficking tobacco. UK border officials are seizing almost 50 million cigarettes a month, and evidence has emerged that smuggling syndicates are bribing girls as young as 15 with flights to Spain, accommodation and pocket money. Police say the girls are encouraged to travel through smaller airports such as Exeter, East Midlands and Newcastle to avoid detection, with the Canary Islands emerging as the most popular destination for cigarette smugglers. Cheap flights are reserved in advance by criminal gangs, who also provide empty suitcases for the youngsters to fill with as much illicit tobacco as possible. A UK Border Agency spokesperson said that, in most cases, the young women were unaware they were working for often violent individuals involved in cigarette contraband, one of Europe's fastest-growing forms of organised crime. He said: "Cigarette smuggling is a serious organised crime and often provides the funding for much larger criminal operations such as drug smuggling or people trafficking." Last month four schoolgirls aged 15 and 16 from County Durham narrowly avoided jail after being caught smuggling 200,000 cigarettes into Britain. And 10 days ago a court heard how one girl was caught at Robin Hood Airport, south Yorkshire, on her third trip to the Canary Islands. The girl was arrested with her three friends by customs officers who discovered more than 66,000 cigarettes in their luggage. Initially, they denied they were smuggling cigarettes until the oldest revealed that they had been hired by criminals and that they had been heading abroad on an "organised fag run". The four have refused to reveal who organised their trip and gave them Â£150 in spending money. Officers believe they are terrified of reprisals if they divulge the identities of those behind the scam. The girls, who live near Sunderland, were found with 15,000 cigarettes crammed in each of their suitcases and another 1,600 in their hand luggage. Each should have paid Â£2,900 in duty. In another case, officers found 74,000 cigarettes in the luggage of a Newcastle couple travelling on two flights from the Canary Islands that they believe were going to be sold in pubs and factories. Border officials said that from January until the end of July they had intercepted more than 340 million cigarettes, which was equivalent to a potential loss of Â£65m in tax revenue. Tobacco companies are also reporting huge falls in sales with the UK-listed British American Tobacco (BAT) and Imperial Tobacco registering about Â£600m in lost business each year. In addition, shopkeepers, wholesalers and distributors are estimated to be losing Â£230m to smugglers annually. Police believe the ruse is attractive to criminal gangs because the profits are similar to those made by trafficking drugs, but with less punitive penalties. Smugglers usually sell packets of 20 for about Â£3 â half the price of legitimate cigarettes in Britain, which a Treasury survey confirms as the most expensive in Europe. Typically, the contraband tobacco is sold at car boot sales, pub car parks or street markets. Experts believe smuggling rings are exploiting the recession by targeting young girls from low-income backgrounds as recruits. "We are determined to eradicate tobacco smuggling and its devastating impact on our communities," a UK Border Agency source said""