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Illegal tobacco

Public Health and Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards are working together to raise awareness of the damage sales of illegal tobacco can do in local communities. We’re also encouraging people to anonymously report the criminals involved in illegal sales.

What is illegal tobacco?

Illegal tobacco (also referred to as illicit tobacco) includes:

  • tobacco or cigarettes with no legal market in the UK, often from Eastern Europe – sometimes known as “cheap whites"
  • UK brands which are smuggled into the country and sold without duty being paid
  • counterfeit/fakes – illegally manufactured and made to look like recognised brands

We all like a good deal, but the real cost of “cheap whites” might be more than you bargained for….far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund low-level and large scale organised crime. People selling cheap, illegal tobacco at pocket-money prices are likely to be selling other things illegally (drugs, fake branded goods and alcohol), exposing our children to more dangers.

Illegal tobacco products are sold in our communities through private houses, ‘under the counter’ in shops, pubs and clubs, through social media and even on the street or by ice-cream vans.

Common brands of illegal tobacco to look out for, which cannot legitimately be bought in the UK, include:

  • Jin Ling
  • Raquel
  • Richman
  • Platinum
  • NZ
  • Camelford

If tobacco products do not contain health warnings written in English or display the 'UK DUTY PAID' fiscal mark, they are also illegal.

For more information on the damage illegal tobacco is doing in your area, how to spot it, how to share information anonymously and help us drive it out for good visit Stop Illegal Tobacco.

The risks of illegal tobacco

All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco poses additional dangers and health risks:

Organised Criminal Activity
Illegal tobacco across the country is becoming a significant problem with organised criminal gangs targeting vulnerable people by selling cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco at reduced prices. Surrey and Buckinghamshire are no exception with illegal tobacco being found by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards across the county.

Fire Risks
There is strong evidence to show that illegal tobacco products can cause house fires as illegal cigarettes do not meet the 'Reduced Ignition Propensity' safety standard. Since 2011, all cigarettes sold in the UK must be manufactured to meet this standard which makes sure that cigarettes left unattended go out quickly using fire retardant paper. Since illegal cigarettes are not manufactured legitimately, you can't be sure if this safety method is being used, leading to cigarettes staying lit and potentially dangerous fires occurring.

Health Risks
Alongside the known health associated risks with smoking, including; cancers, coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, illegal tobacco is likely to contain unknown compositions and is therefore unlikely to meet UK safety standards.

Undermining Stop Smoking Services
The availability of cheaper, illegal tobacco products also reduces the effectiveness of tobacco control measures and undermines stop smoking services. This makes it harder for smokers to quit and widens existing health inequalities.

Uptake of smoking in children / young people
The illegal tobacco trade and the sale of “cheap whites” also makes it easier for children and young people to access tobacco products and encourages more smoking among both adults and young people.

Report illegal tobacco: how can you help?

In Buckinghamshire, we want to uproot illegal tobacco activity from our local communities. We all have a part to play in recognising the signs of illegal tobacco, reporting the people or establishments involved in illegal tobacco sales and helping to prevent uptake of smoking in children and young people.

The Police and Trading Standards can investigate and take action against those who import or sell illegal tobacco products. If you think you know where tobacco is being sold, stored or made please report it anonymously online or call 0300 999 6 999.

Local advice and support to stop smoking from Be Healthy Bucks

For local support and advice to stop smoking, visit Be Healthy Bucks.

You can also call 03332 300177.

Or text ‘SMOKE’ to 60777.