Illicit Tobacco

Illicit Tobacco is a Crime

It is estimated that 11% of all cigarettes and 49% of all hand rolling tobacco consumed in the UK are illicit, whether smuggled, counterfeit, stolen or bootlegged.  It has also been claimed that as many as a third of cigarettes sold across Cumbria are illegal.

Although all tobacco is harmful, research shows that four times as many people die from illegal tobacco than all illicit drugs combined.

Local and national intelligence details that organised crime gangs play a key role in the supply of illicit tobacco, especially counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.  This illegal trade does damage more than health impacts and loss of government revenue as it can support other criminal activity such as the supply of controlled drugs, stolen goods and illegal alcohol.

Children and young smokers are targeted, making it easier for them to get hooked on smoking.

Some counterfeit and smuggled tobacco has been found to contain asbestos, sawdust and rat droppings.

Joint Working

We are working closely with other North West Trading Standards authorities to curb the sale of illicit tobacco after a report found that it costs the UK taxpayer £ 2billion a year, which is money that could be spent on schools and hospitals.


Foreign brands brought into the UK illegally to be sold on the black market.  Make sure to look out for one or more of the following:

  • Foreign brand names such as Raquel and Jin Ling

  • Cheaper prices - less than £ 3.50 for a pack of 20

  • Foreign health warnings

  • No picture health warnings

  • Unusual taste


Cigarettes and tobacco brought into the UK in large quantities from countries with lower tax and illegally sold - as any cigarettes brought in from outside the UK should be for personal use only.  Make sure to look out for one or more of the following:

  • Popular brands such as Lambert and Butler and Superkings

  • Foreign health warnings

  • Cheaper prices - less than £ 3.50 for a pack of 20

Counterfeit (fake cigarettes)

Cheap cigarettes that are made to look like popular UK brands.  Make sure to look out for one or more of the following:

  • Popular brands such as Lambert and Butler and Superkings

  • Unusual packaging - spelling mistakes, wrong logos, foreign health warnings

  • No picture health warnings

  • Cheaper prices - less than £ 3.50 for a pack of 20

Please view our Cumbria Trading Standards Tobacco animation

Is illicit tobacco a problem?

Illegal cigarettes can be up to half the price of legal cigarettes, therefore making it easier for children to take up the habit, encouraging people to smoke more and making it harder for smokers to quit.  In addition, illegal tobacco also brings low-level and large-scale organised crime into our community and can help fund drugs and alcohol smuggling, money laundering and terrorism.  It is illegal for anyone to supply and possess for supply illicit tobacco, be it smuggled, bootlegged or counterfeit.

What is happening?

Cumbria Trading Standards work in partnership with Cumbria Constabulary and HM Revenue and Customs in delivering The North of England tacklingIllicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme within our local communities.  Regular enforcement days are held where Officer's act on intelligence received and remove illicit tobacco from the market place.

If you suspect anyone of selling illicit tobacco in your community, you can report them to:

Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 2231133.

For further information on illicit tobacco visit

If you need help in giving up tobacco visit