The scale of the issue
"Dominated globally by organised criminals, the illicit trade damages legitimate business, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people. The criminality involved, including the use of the proceeds to fund other crimes, has a devastating effect on individuals and communities across the UK and abroad."*
*Tackling illicit tobacco: From Leaf to Light. The HMRC and Border Force strategy to tackle tobacco smuggling. HMRC / Border Force, March 2015
Illicit trade in your area
Enter your postcode into our tool to find out the extent of the illicit trade near you.
Illicit tobacco is a real issue for the UK – so much so that HMRC estimates that 9% of cigarettes and 34% of roll your own tobacco smoked in this country evades UK taxes*.
Illicit tobacco products are unregulated, some have been found to contain asbestos, mould, dust, dead flies and rat droppings**.
The illicit trade undermines efforts to stop children from having access to tobacco products, those who sell illicit tobacco don’t care who they sell to.
The illicit tobacco trade seriously undermines local businesses, sales are taken away from law-abiding retailers and they also lose footfall through their stores.
*Measuring tax gaps 2021 edition - tax gap estimates for 2019 to 2020. HMRC, September 2021
**Toxic fake cigarettes filled with asbestos and excrement seized by councils. LGA, 26 August 2014
What's being done?
The most recent figures show that Border Force seized 494 million cigarettes and 113 tonnes of tobacco at the UK's ports and airports***.
To date, JTI have removed over 45 gantries from retailers convicted of selling illicit tobacco products.
Within the UK, illicit tobacco remains the top product investigated by Trading Standards departments. Every week Trading Standards officers, supported by the Police and HMRC, are investigating, seizing and prosecuting cases of illicit tobacco sales.
JTI continues to support private prosecutions of those selling counterfeit JTI products, with 20 successful cases to date.
*** Seizures made over 12 months to September 2020. Border Force transparency data. www.gov.uk/government/publications/border-force-transparency-data-q2-2021
In Your Area
Enter your postcode area below to find out the extent of illicit trade nearby. The results are based on information contained in public sources - print and online media, press releases and council documents. It is important to note that as not all seizures and prosecutions are reported on, nor full details disclosed, the figures shown are not exhaustive and do not represent all the action that law enforcement agencies will have undertaken against the sale of illegal tobacco.
This section provides ‘highlights’ on the illegal tobacco trade identified through media coverage. It includes seizures and enforcement action, prosecutions undertaken by Trading Standards or HMRC, as well as surveys and studies which provide insight on this illegal activity and/or measure its scale.