Smoking is seriously addictive and is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and avoidable death in the UK. All tobacco, regardless of where it is bought, contains thousands of chemicals, many of which cause cancer, and long-term use will kill one in two of its users.
The availability of cheap illegal tobacco undermines the work of our smoking cessation clinics and everyone who might otherwise stop smoking as it is too expensive. Although a lot has been achieved…
Illegal tobacco falls into one of these three categories
Counterfeit – This tobacco claims to be an established, well-known brand. But it’s not. It’s fake.
Non-duty paid – Legitimate tobacco purchased abroad cheaply, brought back to the UK, and sold at a fraction of the UK retail cost.
Other unknown brands – Made for the illegal market, these brands and unknown and unregulated.
If tobacco is cheap, chances are it is illegal.
All genuine tobacco products sold in the UK must now be sold in standardised (olive coloured) packaging.
What’s the real cost?
Tax – Tobacco is taxed heavily as a deterrent, to try and persuade people to stop smoking. The unpaid duty on these products was estimated at £2.5 billion in 2017, this money should go towards funding hospitals, schools and other services. The livelihoods of your local shopkeepers are threatened too – they cannot compete with illegal tobacco sellers on price and it greatly undermines attempts to quit.
Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) – Illegal tobacco is often used by OCGs to raise funds for their criminal activity – such as human trafficking and terrorism. Trading Standards officers have also reported the sale and use of illegal tobacco by individuals involved with child sexual exploitation. These are not the things you would want in your local community?
Other Criminality – It is often the case that when officers deal with individuals who sell illegal tobacco, they also discover involvement with other criminal activity such as drugs, stolen items, the sale of other counterfeit goods, and abuse of the benefits system. Profits made from the sale of illegal tobacco are then fed back into the criminal activities. All these issues will have a negative impact on your local neighbourhood.
The tobacco industry always needs to recruit new smokers to keep their business sustainable. It is uncommon that an adult will suddenly decide to start smoking, most smokers are addicted before the age of 18; the age at which you can legally purchase tobacco in the UK.
Illegal tobacco is readily available at ‘Pocket Money Prices’, as little as £3 a packet or £5 a pouch.
If you know of someone selling illegal tobacco, report it confidentially via our on line Report it button found at the top of every page. Follow our Illegal Tobacco Team on Facebook to keep up to date with their activity.
Sale of illegal tobacco
The sale of illegal tobacco is not limited to shops although this is still prevalent. Its sale can take place from private homes, pubs, clubs and car boot sales. We have started to notice its steady increase on the numerous Facebook buy, sell and swap sites that allow people to advertise illegal tobacco.
We always encourage the reporting of illegal tobacco sales. You can do this anonymously via the Report It button or you can contact us, in confidence, by sending a private message on Facebook www.facebook.com/swillegaltobacco
It’s a myth that all illegal tobacco contains rat droppings and floor sweepings. In reality we never know what contaminants are in illegal tobacco.
Genuine tobacco products are manufactured in accordance with strict quality control procedures as the manufactures want all their products to be the same. Over 5,000 different chemicals are released when a cigarette burns and there is clear evidence that smoking causes at least 15 different types of cancer.
(To find out more about the content of a cigarette, please follow the link to the cancer research site https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/whats-in-a-cigarette)
In our experience cigarettes and tobacco which are either counterfeit, or made for the illegal market are more likely NOT to adhere to safety standards or a standardised manufacturing processes. We do not know what conditions they are manufactured in, factories may be in a poor state of repair or they may even be manufactured /packed at a home address. This may present a greater risk for other contaminants to be present and in unknown quantities.
There are two major safety features which should be present in a cigarette:
Reduced Ignition Propensity (R.I.P)
RIP is a feature incorporated into cigarettes designed to reduce the risk of house fires.
This picture shows the inside of a cigarette paper rolled flat which does have RIP built in (We have used a highlighter pen to clearly show the special bands built into the paper)
Notice the breaks in the highlighted line, this will ensure that the cigarette will self-extinguish when not continuously smoked. It must be noted that all lit tobacco items may pose a fire risk at the home, if not properly extinguished.
This picture shows the inside of a cigarette paper which does not have RIP built in. Notice that there are no breaks in the highlighted line, this cigarette will not self-extinguish if left unattended.
It is a legal requirement in the UK that all cigarettes must contain RIP. When a cigarette is lit it must self-extinguish if not continually smoked. This test has a high failure rate with counterfeit and other brands specifically manufactured for the illegal market. There have been several fatal house fires as a result of their consumption, as they fail to meet the standard. Again, all lit tobacco items pose a fire risk at the home, if not properly extinguished.
The maximum permissible levels of Tar, Nicotine and Carbon Monoxide allowed in UK tobacco products is 10mg of Tar, 1mg of Nicotine and 10mg of Carbon Monoxide.
Counterfeit and other brands specifically manufactured for the illegal market – when tested, have shown levels of Tar and Carbon Monoxide to be in excess of permitted levels by more than 80%.
It’s time to take a stand. Would you be happy knowing that your child was buying illegal tobacco? The continued purchase of illegal tobacco fuels associated criminality and the overall detriment it causes to our local community. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution, Report It – No ifs…..No Butts.