There is little public support for a further increase in tobacco duty, according to the results of a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Populus for the smokers’ group Forest, found that 76 per cent of adults think the current level of tax – over 80 per cent on an average packet of cigarettes in the UK – is either about right (44 per cent) or too high (32 per cent). Only 24 per cent (one in four) think it’s too low.

A majority – 68 per cent – also said that buying illicit tobacco was an “understandable” response to the soaring cost of tobacco purchased legally. Only 22 per cent found it “not understandable”.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said: “Tobacco duty in the UK is exceptionally high compared to most other EU countries. Another tax hike will discriminate against the less well off and those who are just about managing.

“It will also encourage more smokers to buy tobacco on the black market because there isn’t the stigma associated with other illicit transactions. We urge the Chancellor to give smokers a break, take public opinion into account and freeze tobacco duty at the current levels.”