Illegal tobacco

Why illegal tobacco is an issue

Far from being a victimless crime, the trade in illegal tobacco has serious consequences for health, crime and community cohesion.

Illegal tobacco traders can often be perceived as community 'Robin Hood' figures. It is important to raise awareness of the real dangers of illegal tobacco:

  • Illegal tobacco causes four times as many deaths as illegal drugs because it discourages smokers from quitting and encourages them to smoke more
  • Illegal tobacco is linked to low-level and large-scale organised crime, nationally and internationally illegal tobacco goes hand-in-hand with drugs and alcohol, child exploitation, money laundering and even terrorism
  • Illegal tobacco costs the taxpayer around £2bn per year

Illegal tobacco brings criminals into local communities and into contact with children. As well as being unregulated, illegal tobacco can often be bought at 'pocket money prices'. This not only attracts young smokers but allows those who may not otherwise afford to smoke, to maintain their habit and prevent their attempts to quit.

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence and the only people who benefit from this trade are the criminals who don't care about what is in the packets they sell. Since illegal tobacco remains part of the range of smuggled and contraband goods traded by criminal gangs it is vital that steady, persistent pressure continues to be applied.

If you are aware of the sale of illegal tobacco in your area, please report it using the methods above.