‘One in four is smoking illegally’

CRE Note: Subsequent to the issuance of the TPSAC report a number of groups are flooding the market with additional studies which, in the mind of the authors, highlight the need for additional regulatory action on menthol.  Surprisingly, none of the studies address the central issue identified by CRE:  A menthol ban will result in the introduction of contraband cigarettes which present a far greater threat to smokers and non-smokers than legal products.  It seems the public health community does not want to recognize publicly, even though they are convinced of the accuracy of the underlying data compiled by CRE because they have never criticized it,  that if one is to smoke,  you had better not smoke contraband.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Profile image for Bristol Evening Post Bristol Evening Post

HALF of the rolling tobacco smoked in the greater Bristol area is illegal.

And as many as one in ten cigarettes come from the black market.


Findings of a survey released earlier this year suggest about a quarter of the estimated 100,000 smokers in Bristol smoke illegally.

Tobacco industry research reveals products containing human faeces, rat droppings and plastic make their way into the city from countries as far away as China.

“Illegal” cigarettes can be categorised in three ways.

Firstly, there are genuine tobacco products bought legally abroad in bulk, but illegally resold in the UK.

Secondly, there are counterfeit cigarettes, which copy branded packaging and contain cigarettes made in illegal factories around the world.

Then there are “illicit whites” – cigarettes that mimic well-known brands but can be made in legitimate factories in other countries.

Some, such as Russian-made Jin Ling, have become so well-known and widely smuggled that criminals have started creating counterfeits of them.

In recent years, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency have seized thousands of cigarettes at Bristol’s airport and ports.

A large number of the illegal cigarettes here begin their journey in the Fujian region of China, made in make-shift rural factories.

An industry source said faeces, hair, toenails, rat droppings, insects and plastic have all been found in counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco seized by the authorities.

On a visit to Bristol, a spokesman for Japan Tobacco International, whose brands include Benson & Hedges, and Silk Cut, warned people against buying cheaper, illegal tobacco.

“If you are buying counterfeit, what is in those cigarettes?,” he told the Evening Post. “Your five, ten or £20 note will end up in the pocket of the same people trafficking drugs, humans or arms.

“Tobacco is a legal product and the Government chooses to raise revenue through legitimate sales, while retailers also rely on that trade.”

Industry research shows 53.6 per cent of rolling tobacco in the South West does not have UK duty paid on it and about nine per cent of cigarettes have had no duty paid.

In April’s Budget, the Chancellor announced large duty increases on tobacco, with some brands going up by 50p per packet, meaning the UK has the second most expensive cigarettes in the EU at £6.95.

Tobacco companies are concerned the yearly rises in duty contribute to the demand for illegal cigarettes and “roll your own”.

Often entering the UK by ship or lorry, a full HGV can make criminals £1.5 million profit. But illegal tobacco factories are also springing up in the UK.

In April, HMRC launched a new strategy to tackle tobacco smuggling – which costs the state £3.8 billion in lost tax every year.

South West HMRC spokesman Bob Gaiger said: “The illegal tobacco trade has a huge impact on our community. We have active and effective teams of officers operating across the South West, and work closely with the UK Border Agency at places like Avonmouth Docks and Bristol Airport, to stamp out this criminal activity.”

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