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Illegal tobacco, also referred to as 'illicit tobacco', includes:

  • Tobacco products manufactured for illegal importation and sale in the UK, without paying duty
  • Genuine tobacco products smuggled into the UK without paying duty
  • Counterfeit / imitations of established brands manufactured illegally

How to spot illegal tobacco

There are two sources of illegal tobacco:

  • Smuggled
  • Fake

The tell-tale signs are:

  • Not sold in standardised green packaging
  • Unusual taste
  • Popular brand or foreign brand names such as Raquel and Jin Ling
  • Cheap prices (around half the price of a genuine pack of 20)
  • Unusual packaging (spelling mistakes, wrong logos, discoloured packaging)
  • The print quality of the detail on the cigarette is noticeably worse

Also, look at the health warnings on the cigarette packaging:

  • They might not be in English
  • They might not display a picture
  • They might not be printed on a white background
  • They might have different sized lettering to usual

Report illegal tobacco

Please report any suspicions about the supply of illegal tobacco to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

They will send the reports through to us at Trading Standards for investigation.

Agencies that deal with illegal tobacco

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) - responsible for tackling the illegal trade in tobacco products
  • UK Borders Agency – has operational responsibility for enforcement at UK borders
  • Trading Standards – enforces legislation regarding the sale of these products
  • Police - enforce legislation around possession for the purposes of supply, and the supply of illicit tobacco

In Trading Standards, we have a key role to play at a local level detecting and seizing illegal tobacco products as appropriate. We may undertake joint operations with HMRC at regional level to tackle the supply chain.

Harm caused by illegal tobacco

For more information about the harms caused by illicit tobacco visit the Keep It Out website.

Our illegal tobacco investigations

You can read about our recent illegal tobacco investigations in the following press releases: