Efforts to reduce smoking being ‘undermined’ by illegal cigarettes, LGA warns

Efforts to reduce smoking in England are being undermined by black market cigarettes, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

According to the LGA, millions of illegal cigarettes worth hundreds of thousands of pounds are regularly seized by councils, with recent raids taking place in Manchester, Croydon and Coventry.

The LGA warns that these cheap illegal tobacco products contain even higher levels of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, lead and arsenic than their regulated name-brand counterparts and, as such, pose a significant health risks to users.

In addition to the health risks, the illegal tobacco trade also costs the UK around £2 billion a year in unpaid duty.

Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Illegal tobacco being sold cheaply through the black market by rogue traders is funding organised criminal gangs, damaging legitimate traders and robbing the tax payer of more than £2 billion that could be spent on schools, hospitals and caring for the elderly.

"Cheap cigarettes might be tempting to buy because people think they are getting a good deal on brand-name cigarettes. The reality is that cheap cigarettes are often fakes.

"No cigarettes are good for you, and fake cigarettes contain even higher levels of cancer-causing toxins than standard cigarettes, so people should think twice about buying them.

"Aside from the content being unregulated and dangerous, fake cigarettes fail to extinguish themselves when left to burn, presenting a real danger to people.”