John Wood Imperial Tobacco has rejected suggestions by Customs & Excise that it is not doing enough to help combat smuggling of tobacco, compared with its rival Gallagher. This week Gallagher became the first UK cigarette producer to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Customs & Excise outlining their joint policy of co-operation in tackling smuggling. But Imperial, whose Regal and Superking/Superking Blue brands account for 49% of all the smuggled cigarettes seized by Customs, was criticised by a Customs spokesman for not signing a similar agreement. He said: "They could do a little bit more to help us. They are dragging their feet." But Liz Buckingham, group communications manager for Imperial, said: "We have a long history of co-operation and first suggested such a memorandum in 1997, but Customs said it was not needed. We would have no problem signing such an undertaking." Buckingham said Imperial was firmly opposed to smuggling and had ceased trading with 20 customers last year because it had not been satisfied they were doing everything they could to avoid selling to smugglers. She said the prevalence of their brands in seizures was due to their popularity in areas where the smuggling problem was most severe. {{NEWS }}