Tobacco Contraband Prevalence in U.K. Grows

From: NACS Online

Findings suggest that one in seven packs of cigarettes is contraband, resulting in billions of lost revenue a year in unpaid taxes as well as increased health risks for consumers.

LONDON – A new study of discarded cigarette packets in the U.K. has revealed that black market tobacco and fake cigarettes account for one out of every seven packs of cigarettes consumed in the region, the Daily Mail reports.

The finding corresponds to a loss of roughly £2billion ($3.2 billion U.S.) a year in unpaid taxes as well as increased health risks. Fake cigarettes have been found to contain higher levels of chemicals such as arsenic, lead and cadmium

The findings correlate with figures gathered from HM Revenue and Customs, which estimated that up to 16% of cigarettes consumed in the U.K. in the year 2009-10 were fake or counterfeit (estimates for rolling tobacco were much higher at 50%).

Most of the fake products are manufactured in China and Russian and contain high levels of cadmium, which is linked with kidney disease, and arsenic, which increases the risk of certain cancers. They have also been found to contain sawdust, tobacco beetles and even sawdust.

The fakes are sold in street markets for as low as £3 ($4.80 U.S.) a pack.

“It is not surprising that, in these difficult financial times, some smokers are tempted to turn to cheap brands of cigarettes and hand- rolling tobacco to save money,” said John Seale, head of public protection at North East Lincolnshire Council. “However, many of these cigarettes are made overseas in premises where hygiene is poor and the quality of materials used is substandard … This is why the council works proactively to seek out and punish illegal tobacco sellers. Those who are caught will be prosecuted.”

The survey found 20 different brands of counterfeit cigarettes and rolling tobacco, with the Russian-produced L&M and Jin Ling brands the most common.

Trevor Parkin, Tobacco Control Alliance coordinator, said the biggest concern about the finding is that it places minors at risk.

“’One of our greatest concerns is that sellers of cheap cigarettes will readily sell to underage people,” he said. “This illegal market therefore poses a real threat to the future health of our young people.”

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