Kids and illegal tobacco

Operation to target illegal tobacco starts this week

Trading standards officers are starting a campaign this week targeting sales of illegal tobacco.

Officers will be checking shops to ensure they are complying with the laws surrounding the sales of tobacco and ensuring illegal tobacco is not being sold. In shops this tobacco is often hidden away in sophisticated hiding places, so the officers will be using specialist tobacco sniffer dogs to help them.

Illegal tobacco can be sold from under the shop counter, but it is just as likely to be sold in workplaces, in pubs, in the street, from houses, or online. The sale of illegal tobacco is associated with organised criminals who make money from selling counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco to fund other illegal activities. 

Aberdeen City Council trading standards manager Graeme Paton said: “We are holding this campaign to highlight the issue to those who might be tempted to buy ‘cheap fags’, point out who they are funding when they buy this tobacco, and the dangers associated with it. At the same time, we have ongoing concerns about children being supplied tobacco products and becoming addicted.

“People might think they are getting a bargain buying tobacco from under the counter in a shop or via social media, and that it does no harm. But they probably don’t realise the connections between illegal tobacco and organised crime and the proceeds are used to fund other illegal activities such as people smuggling and drug dealing.

“We’d ask people not to buy illegal tobacco and report sales of it to us in confidence so we can make a real difference to help keep more illegal tobacco off the streets - we need to keep the pressure up on those who continue to sell it.”

The most common examples of what is defined as illegal tobacco are:

  • Counterfeits of well-known brands. You might thing you’re getting the genuine article but what you get is an inferior fake
  • Cheap genuine tobacco smuggled into the UK with no-duty paid. These packages are often in foreign languages and do not have the health safety warnings that are required in the UK
  • ‘Cheap whites’ which are mass produced in one country and smuggled into another

People can report illegal tobacco sales to trading standards in confidence on 01224 522433. More information is available at

The operation starting this week will compliment work being carried out as part of Operation CeCe (Scotland), a nation-wide strategy devised by HMRC and trading standards to tackle this problem.

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