illegal tobacco campaign

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents and Imperial Brands have teamed up for a new push to educate independent retailers and UK smokers about the trade in illegal tobacco.

Fifty thousand anti-illicit trade (AIT) kits branded with Imperial’s Suspect it? Report it! campaign are being distributed to retailers throughout the UK during January.

Each pack contains a range of in-store activation materials, including infographics, posters and stickers. These resources have been designed to raise awareness among retailers, their staff and adult smoker customers of understanding the multitude of threats to government, the retail industry and society posed by the illicit tobacco trade.

“Latest reports suggest around one in six factory-made cigarettes and two in five handrolled cigarettes smoked in the UK are of an illicit nature, which is among the highest in the EU. This illegal product can often be unregulated. It also threatens retailers’ livelihoods, brings criminal elements into local communities and deprives the government of billions of pounds of much-needed tax revenue each year,” said Imperial Brands AIT manager Peter Nelson.

“With the full transition to standardised - or ‘plain’ - packaging on 20 May fast approaching, it is likely that tobacco manufacturers, enforcement bodies and retailers alike will have to contend with an increased threat from the illicit trade in the near future, so the release of these Suspect it? Report it! information packs comes at a particularly crucial time.

“We strongly believe that collaboration between government, industry and law enforcement is the only way to achieve long-term success, with all partners working together in a focused manner to achieve the government’s objectives of not only reducing the illegal trade, but also helping restrict youth access to prohibited products.”

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “The growing trade in illicit tobacco products is doing irreparable damage to both the independent retail sector and the communities that they serve.

“Independent retailers operate policies such as Challenge 25 and verify the age of their customers before selling them tobacco products, but those behind the illicit trade make no such checks, happily selling their products to young people. But that’s not our only concern. The health and safety of people who smoke counterfeit cigarettes is seriously at risk from the highly unpleasant ingredients they can contain.

“This important campaign shows that independent retailers, manufacturers and the public can work together to fight against the criminal gangs who damage local businesses and communities by their continued trade in illicit tobacco products.

“By working with Imperial, we aim to raise the profile of all the dangers associated with illicit tobacco, discourage the public from buying their products from illicit sources, and encourage them to report suspicious activity to the police or Trading Standards. We will also be urging our members to get fully behind this scheme and to display the point-of-sale material prominently within their stores.”