Joe Smirkin It ain't cool - most kids don't smoke, Don't be in the minority - join us! Tasha Smirkin

Tobacco fuelled crime

Not all cigarettes are sold legally in the UK. There are big profits to be made by criminals who bring cigarettes and tobacco into the country to avoid taxation and who sell them cheaply from homes, pubs, car boot sales, workplaces etc.

These illegal cigarettes fall into three groups:

Police boat
  • Counterfeit – Fake cigarettes/tobacco that look like the genuine brand. The packets may have poor print quality, different size lettering or have health warnings and pictures missing.
  • Smuggled – Brands not available in shops in the UK. These products are made abroad and smuggled in to the UK. Brands include Jin Ling, Raquel, Richman and Bon.
  • Bootlegged – UK brands of cigarettes that are purchased abroad, brought into the UK and sold. The packaging may have foreign health warnings, no pictorial messages and carry no UK DUTY PAID mark.

How big is the problem?

During 2011, joint enforcement action with HM Revenue & Customs in Hull recovered over 140,000 illegal cigarettes and 70kg of hand rolling tobacco.

Why is it such an issue?

  • Illegal tobacco sellers don't care who they sell to. Their only interest is in making money – often targeting children attracted by the cheap prices and availability.
  • Illegal tobacco is often linked to organised crime - traders may deal in drugs, alcohol and money laundering. Genuine retailers can't compete with cheaper prices of illegal tobacco.

Is illegal tobacco more harmful to health?

Child Labour

Smoking any tobacco is harmful to health. However illegal cigarettes are often produced without regulation over content or quality making them susceptible to contamination.

How would I recognise illegal tobacco?

Genuine, legal packets of cigarettes or tobacco will have the following messages:

  • 1. UK DUTY PAID in capital letters.
  • 2. "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you" or "Smoking kills" on the front of the packet.
  • 3. A picture message on the back of the packet.

To report illegal sales of cigarettes:

Telephone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or follow this link to the national Crime Stoppers site:

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