Illegal tobacco products are cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco or niche products (such as beedis/bidis and sheesha/shisha) that have been:
- brought into the UK in large quantities from countries with lower tax and then resold to you
- foreign brands brought into the UK illegally to be sold on the black market
- counterfeit products that are made cheaply to look like popular UK brands
Counterfeit tobacco products have no quality controls and can be made in very unhygienic conditions.
Selling illegal tobacco is a crime and can result in serious fines or prison sentences. It is usually sold from shops, pubs and clubs, workplaces or residential houses (fag houses). The people who sell do not care who they sell to and are often linked to criminal gangs.
In fact young people are often targeted by those who sell illegal cigarettes, as it is sold at ‘pocket money prices’ making it easier for them to take up the habit. They are often the ones to visit ‘fag houses’ to buy cigarettes. It puts them into risky situations with people who might also be selling drugs, alcohol and stolen goods.
People involved in the supply or sale of illegal tobacco can face serious penalties:
- Up to 14 years in prison for proceeds of crime offences – this applies to employer’s who knowing allow illegal tobacco to be sold on their premises, shop, pubs & clubs or individuals selling from houses.
- Unlimited fine
- Any illegal tobacco and the vehicle used for transportation can be seized
- Proceeds of the crime can be seized, whether it’s money or the confiscation of high value assets, such as jewellery, cars and property
- Loss of job and poor employment prospects due to a criminal record
- Shops caught selling illegal tobacco can also risk losing their license to sell alcohol
- Tenants caught selling from houses will be in breach of their tenancy agreement and can risk being evicted from their property.