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Illegal Tobacco

Within the UK there is certain types of tobacco that are being sold illegally, this can take the form of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco. The illegal tobacco trade is often linked to organised criminal activity and a range of other illegal trades.

Illegal tobacco can come in different forms, mainly the following:


Counterfeit tobacco is usually cheap tobacco made to look like genuine brands. It is usually illegally manufactured and sold without the permission of the trade mark holder. Indications of counterfeit tobacco can include:

  • spelling mistakes on packets
  • poor quality finish
  • foreign health warnings
  • may be a funny taste

Another possible indicator that the product is not genuine will usually be the price. For example £3/£4 for a packet of 20 cigarettes would be significantly cheaper than what genuine tobacco products retail at.

Illicit Whites

There is no legal supply of Illicit Whites within the UK. Indications that they are illicit would be by the brand name. The typical brands include:

  • Jin Ling
  • L & M
  • Raquel
  • Richman and Bon

These are not recognised brands within the UK, therefore they aren’t legitimate products. They smuggle these products in without paying duty.


This form of illegal tobacco is intended for sale in countries where there is lower tax, it is illegally brought into the UK and illegally sold.

Bootlegged tobacco can include genuine brands. The indications that a product is bootlegged can include:

  • foreign health warnings
  • no pictoral warnings
  • price of the products (same as counterfeit products)

Problems with illegal tobacco

Current controls to tobacco sales are undermined by illegal sellers. The availability of illegal tobacco bears no restrictions therefore it is accessible to children, there will be no taxation paid and sales will not conform to the point of sale display bans.

Further problems include:

  • Low price of illicit tobacco increases affordability, encourages people to smoke more and makes it less likely that they will give up smoking which in turn impacting on their health.
  • Suppliers target poor and disadvantaged communities.
  • Proven links to organised crime.
  • Illicit sales undermine reputable retailers.
  • More likely to cause house fires.

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