Illegal tobacco

Changes to the law

These changes came into full effect on 20 May 2017 for legitimate tobacco products.

The changes cover a range of issues with the intention of cutting smoking prevalence rates and deterring take-up by young people.

  • Plain packs - all cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco must be sold in standardised plain packaging with bigger health warnings. The new packaging is described as being 'muddy green' - apparently research has shown it to be the world's ugliest colour
  • Pack sizes - 10 packs are banned, the minimum pack size of cigarettes will be 20. With changes to excise duty rates this means a minimum price of £8.82. The smallest hand rolling tobacco pack will be 30 grammes
  • Flavours - cigarettes and tobacco with flavourings are banned, apart from menthol which is permitted until 2020

The new rules come on top of existing tobacco control legislation, which Trading Standards officers already enforce, such as bans on advertising, sales of single cigarettes, sales to children under 18 and the display of tobacco products in shops.

Retailers had one year to sell through old stock with that period ending on 19 May 2017. Any retailers convicted of breaking the law could be fined, or even face imprisonment, or both. However prosecution is always the last resort for Trading Standards who will be working with businesses to ensure the new rules are complied with.