Convenience retailers have criticised what they say are unambitious government targets for tackling the illicit tobacco trade in the UK.

The targets are included in HMRC’s new tobacco smuggling strategy unveiled last week.

The strategy - Tackling illicit tobacco: from leaf to light - highlights that revenue loss from smuggled tobacco stands at an annual £2.1bn.

But the government has stated its medium-term ambition is to “hold the cigarettes illicit market share at, or below, 10%”.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the new strategy and continued focus on tobacco smuggling was welcome “but we need to see more ambitious targets” to cut the level of non-duty-paid tobacco “instead of just holding it at 10%”.

The ACS plans to write to HMRC ministers after the general election to offer support for the strategy while at the same time calling for more ambitious targets.

The new strategy specifies HMRC will continue to focus on high-level seizures and optimise the impact of penalties, including a review of all sanctions for tobacco smuggling.