Tackling illicit tobacco: From leaf to light
Publication Source

Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise and UK Border Force

Economy status
High-income economies

Dominated globally by organised criminals, the illicit trade damages legitimate business, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people. The criminality involved, including the use of the proceeds to fund other crimes, has a devastating effect on individuals and communities across the UK and abroad.

Since 2000, when Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise introduced its first strategy to tackle illicit tobacco, the progress in the fight against tobacco smuggling has been considerable. The size of the illicit cigarettes market has been halved and the illicit market for hand-rolling tobacco has reduced by a third. More than 26 billion cigarettes and 4,300 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized. There have been more than 4,000 criminal prosecutions for tobacco offences. We have achieved a lot, but even this reduced illicit market still costs the taxpayer over £2 billion a year in lost revenues. This strategy sets out not only how HMRC and UK Border Force will continue to target, catch and punish those in the illicit tobacco trade, but also how we will create an
environment that is hostile to the fraud, from the streets of our cities where illegal tobacco products are sold to the factories across the world where those products start their journeys.

Working together is key to this approach, making sure that what we do to protect revenues complements our efforts to protect public health, the competitiveness of UK businesses, intellectual property, and the integrity and security of our communities. We are pleased to announce that HM Treasury will be establishing and leading a
new ministerial group to champion cooperation between the many UK government departments and agencies who have a role to play in fighting this fraud, and to lead the effort to establish a shared understanding across the world of the damage it does.