Counterfeiting is not a new problem; it is worldwide and affects many luxury branded products. Some of the world’s leading brands are copied simply because they are the top brands. The UK’s high tax policy on tobacco products makes it an attractive market for counterfeiters. Criminals are seeking to make a quick profit and they are doing so on a large scale.
Smokers are being cheated by black-market counterfeit products, which are of variable quality and taste. It is unlikely that counterfeit products will adhere to the rigorous standards set down by the UK Government for levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. They might also contain ingredients that are not in the Department of Health’s approved additives list.
Our member companies co-operate fully with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the investigation of counterfeit product wherever and whenever it is located. Individual cases have also been reported to Trading Standards.
A Welsh language version of the don’t be tempted poster was also produced and issued to retailers by the TMA and the Tobacco Retailers Alliance to warn consumers not to purchase smuggled tobacco products.
Counterfeit tobacco products are illegal and retailers must ensure that they do not sell them. To be sure of genuine product retailers should only purchase their stocks from UK manufacturers or established reputable wholesalers and cash and carries. Consumers should also only buy from legitimate sources.
It was announced at the 2007 Budget that the Government had accepted an offer from the TMA’s member companies to incorporate technology on cigarette packs to allow the easy identification of genuine/counterfeit product in the retail network. Since 1st October 2007 all cigarettes manufactured for the UK market by our member companies and Philip Morris International carry the technology. This was extended to handrolling tobacco from 1st October 2008.
The anti-counterfeiting device used to detect illicit counterfeit product is now being used across the UK by HM Revenue & Customs and Trading Standards Officers
You can find out more on this subject from a report – Counterfeit Cigarettes 2004 – issued in December 2004 by HM Treasury and HM Customs which describes their campaign against the growth of counterfeit tobacco products. A copy can be found on the HM Treasury website.