From: Derby Telegraph
Illicit cigarettes seized in a police raid. Counterfeit tobacco products can contain up to 30 times the level of harmful toxins.
AN unusual odour or strange taste will alert you to the fact that something is wrong.
A hacking cough can also make you realise that those cheap cigarettes were not such a great bargain.
There is the possibility that they had higher levels of carcinogenic chemicals than legitimate tobacco products.
And traces of animal droppings, dead insects, asbestos and plastics have also been found in cigarettes on sale in the UK.
These products are manufactured all over the world in unregulated factories that adhere to no health and safety regulations or requisite standards of hygiene.
Will O’Reilly is a former Scotland Yard detective who now works as a security consultant to the tobacco industry.
He said: “People need to realise what goes into these things.
“They can have up to 30 times the level of harmful toxins as well as human faeces and rat droppings.
“They are made very very cheaply and are glued together with pretty much any old rubbish.”
Known as illicit or cheap whites, these packets of cigarettes are produced for as little as 15p each.
This means massive potential profits for criminal gangs.
Mr O’Reilly said: “In recent years, the manufacture, smuggling and sale of illicit tobacco has turned into a more lucrative enterprise.
“A container-load represents a profit of £1 million for a criminal gang.
“The profit margins are huge and the risks and penalties are smaller when compared to smuggling drugs.
“The trade helps to fund organised crime and terrorist groups.”
Counterfeit products bring with them a variety of additional health risks.
These tend to be fake versions of popular brands that have been reproduced cheaply in large volumes. They often look a lot like the real thing but can be identified by inferior packaging.
Lightweight paper, ink or card may have been used to keep costs down and health warnings may be printed either in a foreign language or, if printed in English, there may be spelling mistakes.
The price for a pack of 20 may retail for as little as £3.50 – about half the price of a legitimate packet.
And as they are produced in unregulated factories, there are no controls over the levels of toxins.
Tar, nicotine, lead and other contaminants are likely to be present in concentrations in excess of legal limits.
In addition, the paper used to manufacture these cigarettes could present a greater fire risk.
All paper tobacco products on sale in the UK are required by law to be self extinguishing, to reduce the number of house fires caused by dropped, discarded or forgotten cigarettes.
There is nothing to suggest that illegally produced cigarettes adhere to these guidelines.
Mr O’Reilly said: “Counterfeit cigarette factories are not just based in China and the Far East, as there are also factories in European states.
“Illicit white brands such as Jin Ling are available in the UK market but consumers are unaware of what goes into these products.”
Packets of Jin Ling cigarettes have been found on sale in shops in Derby.
In the run-up to Christmas, families are likely to be under more financial pressure and fake tobacco products become more attractive.
The message from the Derby Telegraph’s Don’t Be Tempted campaign is that, given the health risks associated with counterfeit cigarettes, buying them is a gamble that will not pay off.