Consumption of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco in the UK will continue to rise unabated, Imperial Tobacco has warned. Chairman Derek Bonham said the group welcomed new government measures to stamp out smuggling, but claimed it would do little to stop smokers using non UK duty paid product. Bonham added: "The 25p duty increase announced in the Budget makes UK cigarette taxes the highest in the world and is expected to encourage further downtrading and smuggling." His comments came as Imperial Tobacco announced a 15% jump in pretax profit to £210m in the six months to March 25, largely due to a strong performance in overseas markets. UK operating profit was down 9% at £139m ­ due to changes in the timing of the duty increases. The group marginally improved its share of the UK cigarette market to 38% from 37.9% last year ­ thanks to a robust performance by Lambert & Butler. It also maintained its number one brand positions in cigarettes, rolling tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigarette papers. But Bonham also warned: "UK production will be subject to significant reprofiling over the next 12 months as we adjust stock levels following the announcement that forestalling ­ the process whereby tobacco goods are cleared from bond immediately before a Budget at pre-Budget rates ­ will end in the UK." That could lead to job losses at Imperial's Nottingham factory. {{NEWS }}