Steve McCabe MP condemns illegal tobacco trade

Steve McCabe attended the launch of a new report, The Billion Pound Drop, on the illegal trade in tobacco.

The report, by leading tobacco manufacturer JTI, highlights how some 22.7% of cigarettes smoked in the West Midlands avoid UK tax. This includes ‘cheap whites’ or counterfeits of well-known brands.

Counterfeit cigarettes are typically produced in China, and smuggled in to the UK by sea. These fakes are often so good that smokers cannot tell the difference until they open the pack and smoke the cigarettes. ‘Illicit’ or ‘cheap whites’ replicate elements of well-known brands, and are manufactured for the purpose of smuggling.

According to the report, illegal cigarettes are often sold through a variety of informal channels including car boot sales, markets, from people’s homes, clubs and in workplaces.

The illicit trade in the West Midlands has worsened in the past year, up from 14.8% in 2011. Typically 85% of the cost of a pack of cigarettes is tax, so with the financial pressures in today’s economic climate smokers go bargain hunting without considering the consequences as to where and how fakes are made.

They also produce an even greater health risk than that normally associated with tobacco as there are no quality control checks on these products.


Steve McCabe said:

 “I was interested to hear how the illegal trade in tobacco impacts on Selly Oak. Illegal tobacco causes a loss to the public purse, it brings crime in to our communities and deprives local shops of trade. What’s more, it undermines the objectives of having high taxation on tobacco by making cheap unregulated tobacco widely available. Some of it undoubtedly finds its way into the hands of children”

“Enforcement against criminals involved with the illegal tobacco trade needs to be improved. The penalties currently being imposed don’t fit the crime and there is considerable evidence that this trade has links to organised crime.”


JTI’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Paul Williams said:

“We need the available penalties for the criminals involved in the illegal tobacco trade to be properly enforced if they are going to provide any sort of deterrent.

“The Government is currently considering ‘plain’ or standardised packaging for tobacco products – if this happened, it would make cigarettes and tobacco so much easier to counterfeit. If the Government fails to reject this proposal it will be the Christmas present every tobacco smuggler is waiting for.”

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