Editor’s Note: For more information on contaminated, high-lead cigarettes, please see CRE’s report, Weaponizing Poverty.
Millions of illegal cigarettes filled with dead flies, human excrement and abnormally high levels of cancer-causing chemicals are being taken off the streets by councils according to the Local Government Association (LGA). It said efforts to reduce smoking and improve health are being hampered by the illicit trade, which also costs the UK economy around £3 billion a year in unpaid duty.
Recent councils hauls have seen sniffer dogs deployed in Birmingham to trace bootlegged tobacco. Hundreds of thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized in Wolverhampton, Bristol and Nottingham while six London councils have teamed up to take on the illegal trade in south London. Trading standards officers have found fake cigarettes stashed under floorboards, in toilet cisterns, inside hoovers and behind sweets on shelves.
Some have contained absestos, mould, dust, dead flies, rat droppings and human excrement. Many also contain much higher levels of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, lead, cadminium and arsenic than genuine brand-name cigarettes. Fake cigarettes also pose a greater fire risk as they do not include designs that ensure that a lit cigarette will self-extinguish if not actively smoked. This reduces the chances of them starting a fire if left burning in an ashtray, are dropped or if the smoker falls asleep.