News story

Government unveils plans to stub out illicit tobacco trade

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Border Force have today published a joint strategy for tackling the illicit tobacco market in the UK.

The refreshed strategy sets how they will continue to work together to target, catch and punish those in the evolving illicit tobacco market and includes the following action:

  • Introduction of a registration scheme with appropriate enforcement sanctions for users and dealers in raw tobacco, with a technical consultation on the design and scope of the scheme.

  • A targeted consultation on sanctions with other departments, law enforcement agencies, businesses and health groups

  • Establishment of a cross-government ministerial group to oversee future evolution of the anti-illicit tobacco strategy

  • HMRC will also commission substantial academic research to provide evidence to galvanise further action in the international arena.

The strategy will build on the considerable progress HMRC and Border Force have made in the fight against tobacco smuggling since the first strategy to tackle illicit tobacco was introduced in 2000.

The size of the illicit cigarette market has been halved and the illicit market for hand-rolling tobacco has been reduced by a third. More than 26 billion cigarettes and 4,300 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized and there have been more than 4,000 criminal prosecutions for tobacco offences.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Priti Patel said:

Tobacco excise fraud is a crime which deprives the UK of £2 billion every year – money which could be used to fund essential public services, including tackling the damaging impacts of tobacco itself.

But its impact extends far beyond that. This illicit global trade also damages legitimate business, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people. The criminality involved, including the use of the proceeds by organised gangs to fund other crimes, has a devastating effect on individuals and communities across the UK and abroad.

This strategy will build on the progress already being made by looking at new ways the UK and its international partners can combat tobacco fraudsters and beat the illicit market.