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Illegal / Illicit Tobacco - What Is It?

It's often cheap tobacco - usually half the tax paid price of legally sold tobacco. Illicit tobacco is defined in the dictionary as being 'disapproved of by society', however there are more specific terms used to describe the types of tobcco products that are often made available. These include;

  • Smuggled or non-duty paid
  • Counterfeit or Snide
  • Cheap whites or Illicit whites


Image of Smuggled Tobacco

Smuggled Tobacco products are manufactured for sale and supply outside of the UK.

Counterfeit or Fake Tobacco

Image of Fake Tobacco

Counterfeit or fake tobacco are the copying of products without permissoin of the owner.

Cheap Whites / Illicit Whites

Image of Cheap Whites

Cheap / Illicit whites are manaufactured to look like they are legitimate brands from either the UK or other countries. These brands are not copies of other brands, but are specifically manufactured to look similar and give the impressoin that they are well established brands.

The manufacturing process for Counterfeit and Illicit tobacco are the same. there is very little control over what ends up in these tobacco products and will often include the following:

  • Low grade tobacco
  • Animal Faeces
  • Toxic Substances
  • Floor Sweepings

In some cases both counterfeit and illicit tobacco are manufactured in the same factory.

Things to look out for....

  • Cheaper prices
  • Foreign health warnings
  • No picture health warnings
  • Unusual taste or smell

Bringing CRIME into our Communities

It has been proven that the money made form the Illicit trade of tobacco directly funds serious and organised crime.

The Problems with Illegal Tobacco Chart


  • There is very little control over what ends up in illegal tobacco and can include the following: Low grade tobacco, animal faeces, toxic substances, floor sweepings
  • Fire risk – illegal tobacco products don’t have the same regulations. They don’t always burn in the same way as regulated cigarettes and can cause fire
  • Obvious health risks – more toxic. Stop smoking service have had reports of burnt lips, blisters on the inside of the mouth and more frequent and serious coughing episodes.

Links to Crime:

  • Illegal Tobacco is often less than half the tax-paid price of legally sold tobacco, and this maintains smokers in their habit and encourages young people to start smoking.
  • Far from being a victimless crime Illegal Tobacco trading creates a cheap source for children and young people and encourages adults to continue smoking by eroding cost motivation to quit.
  • It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Impact on communities:

  • Higher taxes to compensate from illegal trade
  • Increased strain on NHS resources including waiting times and treatment options
  • Local shop keepers losing trade
  • More accessible tobacco products that encourage and influence young people to start smoking
  • Links to organised crime

Appeal to children:

  • Accessibility
  • Gang culture
  • Quick ways of making money / seems like a good idea initially

Prevents Quitting:

  • Tobacco products become more accessible
  • Cheep products are more appealing – think about vulnerable communities and areas of high deprivation
  • Erodes motivation to quit due to Tax increases

What can you do to help....

The best thing you can do if you know of anyone dealing, selling or buying Illegal Tobacco is to REPORT IT! Every single person who lives and works in our local communities plays a vital role in helping to tackle this problem. The true extent of the problem is unknown and the only way to attempt to measure this problem is to gather intelligence. We are working in partnership with Crime Stoppers and have a designated and 100% anoyomous telling phone number for any member of the public to call, if they come into contact with Illegal Tobacco.

Report It Today, call:

Crime Stoppers Number


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