Stronger powers to combat illicit tobacco come into force

New sanctions have come into force today (20 July 2023) which will mean businesses and individuals selling illicit tobacco can receive a penalty of up to £10,000.

Illicit tobacco involves any illegal activity over the lifetime of a tobacco product, including smuggling and counterfeiting cigarettes.

Our Trading Standards officers will now have the power to refer cases to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for further investigation where businesses or individuals have been found to sell illicit tobacco.

HMRC, where appropriate, will administer the penalties and ensure the appropriate sanction is applied and enforced.

Depending on the severity of the breach, rule-breaking businesses could:

  • Receive a penalty of between £2,500 and £10,000 for the supply of products which contravene Tobacco Track & Trace (TT&T)
  • Have their tobacco products seized
  • Lose their license to buy tobacco for resale in the UK by having their Economic Operator ID withdrawn

Trade in illicit tobacco damages legitimate businesses, undermines public health and facilitates the supply of tobacco to young people.

Julia Burrows, Executive Director of Public Health and Communities, said: “While all tobacco causes significant harm to people’s health, the illicit tobacco trade often has strong links with organised crime and criminal gangs, so many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling it are involved in drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism.

“Even ‘small-time’ local sellers are at the end of a long criminal chain – selling illicit tobacco is a crime, and I am pleased that the new sanctions reflect how destructive this industry can be.”

We can all make a real difference to help keep illegal tobacco off the streets by reporting it. If you spot anything suspicious you can report it in confidence by calling 01226 773536 or emailing

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