News item

Illegal tobacco seized in South Devon

Illegally imported tobacco products with an estimated street value in excess of £10,000 have been seized in South Devon.

In a joint operation, County Council Trading Standards Officers and the Police raided a private address in South Devon on Thursday (6 June) and found non-duty paid tobacco and cigarettes, along with a five figure sum of cash.

This latest confiscation is the second seizure of illegal tobacco by Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Team in the last six months, and follows months of intelligence gathering.

The sale of illegal tobacco is a serious issue, and trade in the region is thought to now have an equivalent retail value of £211m.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said:

“The sale of illegal tobacco is a serious criminal offence, and is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality.

“These criminal activities severely damage the local economy and legitimate traders by gaining a competitive advantage at their expense, and taking trade away from genuine hard working businesses.

“Rest assured this type of activity will not be tolerated in Devon. Together with the Police and other key agencies we will continue to take action to stop illegal sales and won’t hesitate to use our enforcement powers against anyone we catch.”

“We are committed to tackling the illegal tobacco trade in the South West, and encourage consumers to continue to report those involved in selling illegal tobacco because their valuable information can significantly aid our investigations.”

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, said:

“Despite the illegal tobacco market in the UK having halved in the last decade, one in twenty smokers in Devon still smoke illegal tobacco.

“Illegal tobacco is often bought at ‘pocket money prices’, making it cheap and all too easy for our children to smoke and become addicted.  Selling at less than half the tax-paid price of legally sold tobacco it also allows those who could otherwise not afford to smoke, to maintain their habit and undermining their attempts to quit.

This activity is part of the South of England Tackling Illegal Tobacco for Better Health programme, a multi-partnership initiative including Smokefree South West, Local Authorities, Trading Standards, the Police, Crimestoppers and HMRC. The partnership was set-up in 2011 to tackle the illegal tobacco trade across the region.

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at or  call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.

What is illegal tobacco?

Brief definitions of some commonly used terms concerning illegal supply are:

Smuggling – occurs where legitimately manufactured tobacco products are diverted, usually when in the wholesale distribution chain, evading payment of the tax.

Bootlegging – a variant of smuggling: tobacco products are purchased in a country with a low level of taxation and illegally brought into countries with higher rates of taxation.

Non-UK brands (‘Cheap Whites’) – brands manufactured overseas and smuggled into the UK. Brands include Raquel, Richman and Jin Ling.

Counterfeiting – involves the illegal manufacture of tobacco products, often abroad but sometimes in the UK to pass as UK brands avoiding all tax.

EU Duty Paid Goods – There are no limits on the amount of duty and / or tax paid tobacco goods you can bring into the UK from the EU, as long as they are for your own use and not to be sold or exchanged as a form of payment. Travellers from the South West bringing tobacco and cigarettes into the UK from the EU are reminded that Minimum Indicative Levels (MILs) changed on 1 October 2011, aligning the UK with levels elsewhere in Europe. Since that date, you are more likely to be asked questions at the frontier if you have more than  800 cigarettes and 1 kg of hand-rolling tobacco.

What should you look out for when it comes to illegal tobacco being sold?

Illegal tobacco can sometimes be hard to spot, but if you come across anyone selling tobacco products look out for the following:

•Price less than £3.50 for 20 cigarettes or under £7 for 50g of hand rolling tobacco.
•Missing fiscal mark.
•No health warning.
•Foreign language on packs – specifically the health warning.
•Unfamiliar brands – never heard of it before? Check it out.
•Printing errors on the pack.
•Unusual taste and smell.

 DATE: 10 June 2013