6th September 2020

Illegal tobacco campaign 2020

Stamp IT Out London 2020 is a collaborative campaign designed to raise awareness of the harms and risks of illegal tobacco and why it’s important to report premises that sell it.

This year will be media driven via press releases, social media, newsletters, staff bulletins, and other communication channels. Unfortunately our usual public health and trading standards teams roadshows to engage staff and residents won’t be taking place.

Key messages have also been updated to include references to the COVID-19 pandemic and why this issue remains a relevant concern.

London Councils – working with London Trading Standards, ADPH London, the Mayor of London and PHE (London) Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Team – has prepared a variety of resources to help support the campaign.

What is illegal tobacco?
  • Illegal tobacco products (such as cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco) that have been smuggled/bootlegged (duty free) into the country or are fake/counterfeit (illegally produced). They are considerably cheaper than what is sold legally with prices ranging from £3.50 to £7 per packet
  • The sale of single cigarettes – ‘singles’ is also illegal
What to look out for - the tell-tale signs of illegal tobacco
  • Packets with foreign language health warnings
  • No pictures or old-style health warnings
  • Being much cheaper than normal cigarettes (i.e. £3.50 - £7.00 per pack of 20)
  • Branded instead of plain packaging
  • Unusual or foreign brand names, such as Jin Ling – or those from Russia and the Far East
  • Illegal tobacco has been found in a range of shops across London, hidden in secret locations such as holes in the staircase, beneath shop floors, on back shelves, or hidden away in nearby parked vehicles
  • Private homes are also used to sell illegal tobacco in London as well as pubs, nail bars and cafes
  • Illegal tobacco is also sold on the street by illicit traders
Why is it a problem?
  • Research estimates that around 15% of cigarettes smoked in London come from the illegal trade and illegal tobacco was available to purchase in every borough
  • The availability of illegal tobacco and the sale of singles makes it more likely that children will start smoking and damage their health
  • Cheap tobacco available without point of sale health warnings and controls is likely to encourage children and young people to smoke and discourage adults from quitting, perpetuating inter-generational health inequalities
  • It brings crime into our communities. Illegal tobacco has strong links to low-level and large scaled organized crime. Many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling illegal tobacco are also involved in drug dealing, money laundering and people trafficking
  • It undermines stop smoking services and makes it harder for smokers to quit. Research shows a statistically significant reduction in quit attempts associated with buying illegal tobacco
What is the impact of COVID-19?
  • Tackling smoking is key to building health resilience, as we head towards winter and the risk of a disastrous co-circulation of COVID-19 and flu. Nearly 900,000 smokers live in London – almost 15% of all England’s smokers
  • London boroughs support the national #QuitforCovid campaign. Recent analysis by ASH and UCL found that over a million people in the UK have stopped smoking since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. This is great news, but we need to keep supporting Londoners to quit smoking – and the availability of illegal tobacco makes that harder to achieve.
  • Even in these difficult times, London boroughs are continuing enforcement action to tackle illegal tobacco. We are asking Londoners to support these efforts and to share any information they may have about illegal tobacco in their communities.

What do you think?

Please complete our Stamp IT Out online survey which has been designed to measure people’s awareness of and attitudes towards illegal tobacco and capture intelligence on premises that sell it. Your responses will help shape future enforcement and advice activities.

Report it

If you suspect illegal tobacco and/or single cigarettes are being sold, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline 03444 111 444 or use our reporting tool


For general stop smoking information, contact Stop Smoking London on 0300 123 1044 or stopsmokinglondon.com

Campaign media

  • View the campaign media images here
  • View the use of tobacco sniffer dogs by London Trading Standards in the film below

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