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Report the sale of fake alcohol or cigarettes

You can report traders and / or individuals who are selling cheap illegal tobacco products - including cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.

Report underage sales or fake goods

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Illegal tobacco

Illegal (sometimes referred to as 'illicit') tobacco products are those which have been smuggled into the country.  They include:

  • tobacco products that have no duty (tax) paid
  • counterfeit, or fake, products
  • cigarettes called ‘cheap whites’ (produced solely for the smuggled market)

You can identify illegal tobacco products by it’s:

  • price - if a packet of cigarettes or pouch of hand rolling tobacco is cheap, it’s likely to be illegal (prices between £4 to £6 for a pack of 20 cigarettes and £10 for a pouch of 50g tobacco)
  • packaging - all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco should be sold in mandatory dark green coloured packets
  • origin – such as foreign brand names (e.g. Pect or NZ Gold), foreign health warnings on the packaging and / or no picture warnings
  • location in a store – if they are kept away from the tobacco gantry and out of view e.g. under the counter

Implications of illegal tobacco

Health

All tobacco products are harmful to health. Many illegal tobacco products are unregulated. Young people can access cheap tobacco products because they’re sold at pocket money prices.  Cheap tobacco makes it too easy for children to smoke and become addicted. Adults who smoke are less likely to consider alternatives to smoking when tobacco products are cheap.

Safety

All legally manufactured cigarettes are produced with a paper that is self-extinguishable – which means the cigarette ‘goes out’ when the inhaling stops - to reduce the chance that they should set fire to sofas and beds. Illegal cigarettes don’t have this mandatory paper and therefore there is a greater chance of a fire.

Cost

Those that smuggle and sell tobacco products cost the government more than £2.5 billion a year in lost tax, resulting in less money available for public services e.g. hospitals and schools.

Crime

The selling of illegal brings criminal behaviour into communities and neighbourhoods.

Fake alcohol

You can identify counterfeit alcohol by it’s:

  • price – a bottle of spirit which is 35cl or larger and 30% ABV (alcohol by volume) or higher will have UK duty stamp.  The stamp is usually part of the label or stuck onto the glass and shows that tax has been paid or is due to be paid on the contents of the bottle.  If the label isn’t there – it is illegal.
  • packaging – poor quality labelling (possibly with spelling mistakes), fake versions of well-known brands, unusual brand names. Vodka is the most commonly counterfeited spirit.
  • seal – if the cap isn’t sealed properly or is broken you shouldn’t drink the contents.  The product may not be illegal but it may have been tampered with.
  • taste or smell – if the alcohol tastes or smells bad (particularly the smell of nail varnish) you must not drink it.

You can avoid fake alcohol by:

  • making sure you buy from a reputable supermarket, off licence or shop
  • being wary of deals that look too good to be true (it most probably is!)
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