How to classify tobacco for import and export

Classifying cigarettes, cigars, raw tobacco, smoking tobacco and nicotine substitutes when using the UK Trade Tariff.


This guide concerns the classification of tobacco and tobacco-related products. Generally true tobacco products (for example, cigarettes, cigars, smoking tobacco) are classified in chapter 24 of the UK Trade Tariff (Tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes). Tobacco related products (for example, tobacco oil, smoking replacement treatments) may be classified elsewhere in the tariff.

Tobacco can be supplied in a variety of different ways:

  • in a raw, unprocessed or unmanufactured state
  • as manufactured cigars, cigarettes or cigarillos
  • as prepared loose smoking tobacco
  • as prepared chewing tobacco
  • as snuff
  • as homogenised or reconstituted tobacco
  • as an extract or essence

There are a range of manufactured tobacco and smoking substitutes. Some of these are classified as tobacco even though they do not contain any tobacco. This guide will explain where each of the products should be classified.

Raw and unprocessed tobacco

All forms of unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco refuse are classified under heading 2401 - unmanufactured tobacco, tobacco refuse.

The term ‘unmanufactured tobacco’ includes many forms. It could be tobacco supplied as whole plants or leaves in the natural state, or as cured or fermented leaves. It also includes tobacco which has been stemmed/stripped, trimmed or untrimmed, broken or cut, including pieces cut to shape.

Tobacco leaves which have been blended, stemmed/stripped and ‘cased’ (‘sauced’ or ‘liquored’) with a liquid of appropriate composition, mainly in order to prevent mould and drying and also to preserve the flavour, are also covered in this heading. It does not include tobacco which is ready for smoking.

Unprocessed tobacco that’s already prepared for retail distribution, that is, it’s been split from a bulk consignment into smaller quantities with the intention that it can be processed into smokeable state at home (for example in a domestic blender/shredder) is considered smokeable without further industrial processing.

On that basis the product is classified to commodity code 2403191000 (tobacco, other manufactured, smoking tobacco, other, in immediate packings of a net content not exceeding 500 grams).

Tobacco refuse includes all waste resulting from the manipulation of tobacco leaves or from the manufacture of tobacco products and thus includes, for example, stalks, stems, midribs, trimmings, dust.

Cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes, of tobacco or of tobacco substitutes

Cigars whether or not wrapped, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes are all classified under heading 2402, whether they’re made wholly of tobacco or of mixtures of tobacco and tobacco substitutes, regardless of the proportions of tobacco present in the mixture.

Similarly, apart from cigarettes containing only tobacco, this heading also includes those made from mixtures of tobacco and tobacco substitutes, regardless of the proportions of the tobacco and tobacco substitutes in the mixture.

It’s worth noting that cigarettes, cigars, cheroots or cigarillos will be classified here even if they contain no tobacco at all. For example, ‘cigarettes’ which are made from specially processed leaves of a variety of lettuce and therefore contain neither tobacco nor nicotine would also be classified under this heading.

This heading does not cover medicinal cigarettes. Cigarettes containing certain types of products specifically formulated to discourage the habit of smoking but which do not possess medicinal properties remain classified in this heading. Loose tobacco including pipe tobacco and tobacco for hand rolling cigarettes, whether or not containing tobacco in any proportion, is classified under heading 2403.

Loose hand-rolling and pipe tobacco

Smoking tobacco includes loose hand-rolling and pipe tobacco - whether or not it contains tobacco substitutes in any proportion - for use with a hookah or water pipe, all of these are classifiable under 2403 10. It also includes products which do not contain any tobacco at all.

Smoking tobacco is tobacco which has been cut or otherwise split, twisted or pressed into blocks which can be smoked without further industrial processing.

A hookah or water pipe uses a small charcoal tablet to gently heat a special, flavour-infused tobacco blend. The tobacco never burns, but is filtered as it’s drawn through water in the glass base before it’s inhaled through the hoses.

Depending on locality, hookahs are known by other names:

  • shisha or sheesha
  • hubble bubble
  • nargeela - also known as nargile, narghile, nargileh or narguile
  • argeela - also as arghileh or arguile
  • boury
  • gouza
  • okka
  • kalyan
  • gewat suckre

This style of pipe can be used for smoking many substances, including herbal fruits and tobacco. An example is shisha tobacco, which can also be known as tabac, tombak, tumbak, gouza, guza, moassel or sheesha. Shisha is a mixture of tobacco, molasses or sugar that is flavoured with fruit, glycerol, aromatic oils and extracts for example Meassel or Massel. The name is also used for products not containing molasses or sugar, for example Tumbak or Ajmani.

Products that contain tobacco are covered by subheading 240311. Tobacco-free products for water pipes, for example, Jurak - are classified under subheading 240399.

Cartridges and refills intended to be used in water pipe (Hookah) as a fog fluid containing aromatic flavourings are classified under subheading 38249992 if in liquid and 38249993 if other.

‘Homogenised’ or ‘reconstituted’ tobacco and tobacco extracts and essences

‘Homogenised’ or ‘reconstituted’ tobacco includes products made of reformed tobacco made from tobacco leaves, tobacco refuse or dust. It’s sometimes supplied on a backing, for example, a sheet of cellulose from tobacco stems, and is generally put up in the form of rectangular sheets, also known as blunts, or strip. It can either be used as a wrapper in sheet form or shredded/chopped as a filler. All homogenised and reconstituted tobacco products are classified under 2403 91 00.

Manufactured tobacco substitutes include smoking mixtures which do not contain any tobacco. These may have a basis of herbs or another plants.

Tobacco extracts and essences are liquids which are extracted from moist tobacco leaves by either pressure, or prepared by boiling waste tobacco in water. They’re used mainly for the manufacture of insecticides or parasiticides.

Manufactured tobacco substitutes and tobacco extracts and essences are classified under 2403 99 90. Tobacco seed oil is not classified as a tobacco product and should be classified under heading 1515 - other fixed vegetable fats and oils.

Chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco is usually a highly fermented and liquored form of tobacco which is designed to be chewed, not smoked. It’s supplied in long strands of whole or very coarsely shredded leaves, or in the form of rolls, sticks, strips, cubes and blocks. It’s consumed by placing a portion of the tobacco between the cheek and gum or the teeth and is then chewed. It’s classified under heading code 2403 99 10.

As well as western styles of chewing tobacco, there are a number of ethnic varieties of chewing tobacco but all styles are classified in the same way to 2403 99 10.

Paan masala is a filling often used in a type of Indian snack called Paan where a betal leaf is used as a wrapping and the whole product is chewed as a palate cleanser and breath freshener usually taken after meal and during leisure hours.

The ingredients of Paan Masalas vary greatly with some containing tobacco whilst others are tobacco free. Classification of the products therefore depends on what the product is composed of and the intention of the product. For example a betel leaf filled with a mixture consisting of coarsely ground or chopped betel nuts and other spices (paan supari) would be classified under heading 2008 as a preparation of nuts. If the paan contains tobacco (tambaku paan) in any proportion it should classified under heading 2403.

Gutka is a preparation of crushed betel nuts, (supari) tobacco, catechu, lime, elachi (cardamoms), perfumed and permitted spices and flavours, and is consumed like chewing tobacco. This should be classified in the same way as paan under heading 2403.


Snuff, and tobacco which is compressed or liquored for the purpose of making snuff, is classified under heading 2403 99 10. Snuff is tobacco in powder or grain form which has been treated so that it can be taken as snuff and not smoked. There are 2 types of snuff, nasal snuff and oral snuff, also known as snus.

Nasal snuff is a dry to semi moist finely ground tobacco product which is mainly used in the nasal cavity. Nasal snuff exists in different flavour varieties.

Snus is a moist to semi moist, ground, oral tobacco product, which is used between the gum and the upper lip in the oral cavity. Snus exists in 2 packaging formats, loose and portion packed. Both forms exist in different flavour varieties. Unlike chewing tobacco oral snuff sachets are placed in the mouth between the gum and the lip, the user then sucks on the product and the nicotine soaks through the thin layer of skin into the bloodstream.

Note that Pakistani Neswar is also classified as snuff.

Nicotine replacements and addiction relief

There are a number of different relief products and alternatives to cigarettes on the market, including patches, chewing gum and the new electronic cigarettes. There’s no one classification for all these items but they’re instead classified based on their own characteristics.

Nicotine replacement (preparation, tablets, chewing gum) is classified under commodity code 2106 90 92 60 as a miscellaneous edible preparation. This is in line with EU Regulation 3565/88.

Nicotine based hand gel, which is a gel rubbed into the hands so the nicotine is absorbed through the skin to weaken the craving for a cigarette. Marketed as an alternative to cigarettes for situations in which one cannot smoke the gels are classified as tobacco products under 38249993.

Nicotine patches (transdermal systems) intended to stop smokers to stop smoking are classified to heading 38249958.

Electronic cigarette and nicotine inhalers, also known as an inhalator. If an electronic cigarette is imported with a packet of cartridges, the whole set is to be classified together to commodity code 8543 70 90 99 as an electrical product not elsewhere specified. In line with EC Regulation 1143/2008. A nicotine cartridge and refills containing a preparation of nicotine intended to assist smokers to stop smoking is classified to heading 38249956 and 38249957 if other.

Inhalators are classified according to the cartridges they’re supplied with and these are classified in the same way as cartridges for the electronic cigarette.

Excise Duty on tobacco products

Excise Duty is the most significant charge levied on the import of tobacco products. The determination and application of Excise Duty is not dependent upon classification but instead upon the Tobacco Products (Descriptions of Products) Order 2003. This means that the classification of these products in no way determines whether excise is due or the excise rate which will apply.

Read guidance on Tobacco Products Duty and Excise Notice 476: Tobacco Products Duty for further information on how to determine any duty due in relation to your products or to assess what that charge will be.

Following that, if you still have further queries contact the Imports and exports: general enquiries helpline.

Further help

Use the online UK Trade Tariff tool to find the rest of your commodity code and other measures applying to imports and exports.

If you cannot find the information you need on this page, you can get more help to find the right commodity code for your goods.

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 18 January 2019 + show all updates
  1. 'Loose hand-rolling and pipe tobacco' section has been updated with more information on cartridges and refills in water pipes.
  2. Additional information added relating to unprocessed tobacco and smoking tobacco. Change to product number with regard to nicotine based hand gel. Change to heading number for nicotine patches. Change to heading number with regard to nicotine cartridge.
  3. Amendments to commodity code 382490.
  4. The further information section has been updated to show the change of contact details.
  5. Tobacco products under ref numbers changed from customer Lisa Cureton-Burgess. Suzanne Meek
  6. First published.