Why the cheap packet of cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco you get from your local shop, pub or club comes at a high price to your community as well as your health

If you’re offered cheap tobacco, there’s usually a reason: it’s illegal, often smuggled and sometimes fake.

It’s easy to think that buying cheap tobacco doesn’t harm anyone. But there is a whole network of crime and exploitation that gets the smuggled or bootleg cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco to the people who sell it. They haven’t just got duty free from their last holiday. Selling and buying illegal tobacco is not victimless. The illegal tobacco trade operates in a similar way to drugs county lines. Large-scale organised crime groups pay vulnerable children and adults, such as those leaving care, immigrants or cash-strapped families, to travel abroad and smuggle illegal tobacco back into the country.

These gangs are making money from you. Your purchase often fuels human trafficking, the drugs trade, loan sharking, alcohol smuggling and money laundering. It brings criminals into local neighbourhoods to supply those shops, pubs and clubs.

However, we mustn’t forget that all tobacco products are harmful. Whether bought legitimately or illegally, all tobacco contains a toxic cocktail of poisonous chemicals that will kill 1 in 2 long term smokers. But illegal tobacco hooks kids into a lethal addiction and makes it harder for smokers to quit.

That’s why we’re determined to stop the supply of illegal tobacco. We know that illegal tobacco is an easy source for children because it’s cheap and because the people selling it don’t mind selling to those underage.

How can you help? If you have ever bought illegal tobacco (we know a fifth of smokers have), please think about the real cost of your cheap purchase.

But even if you don’t buy it or smoke it, we all pay the price of illegal tobacco, so help us Keep It Out of our neighbourhoods.

If you know where it’s being sold, please tell us anonymously. Your report will be taken seriously and will be investigated. Thanks to reports from local residents last year we made 122 seizures across Greater Manchester, taking nearly 1.5 million illegal cigarettes off the market.

You can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Or go to keep-it-out.co.uk

The Keep it Out campaign is part of Greater Manchester’s wider work to Make Smoking History. 8 out of 10 people in Greater Manchester want to Make Smoking History including half of all those who smoke.

The Keep it Out campaign aims to reduce supply and demand for illegal tobacco by raising awareness and understanding of harms of illegal tobacco.

Find out more at keep-it-out.co.uk



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  • A good article but disappointing that there is no mention of the fact that these cigarettes have caused fires in which people (including my Mum) have lost their lives. The illegal cigarettes do not have the fire safety rings within the outer paper to stop the cigarette from burning when not being actively smoked. This is an important message too which needs to be mentioned in any further posts in my opinion. Thank you.

    • Hi Julie. So sorry to hear about what happened your mum. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your feedback. We will bear this in time for future communications on this topic.