Illicit trade in cigarettes

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I write in response to your article “Black market tobacco calls soar after blitz” published on 30th May 2015.

Since 2011 I have been conducting research in order to gain intelligence and understanding of the illicit trade in cigarettes across the United Kingdom and the experience in South Yorkshire is far from unique.

A KPMG report published last week shows that the UK has had nearly a 50 per cent rise in the consumption of counterfeit and contraband cigarettes in 2014, the second highest increase across the whole of the EU.

This has been driven by an increase in black market tobacco coming out of Belarus and Pakistan and it is a growing problem, the report warns. One in two illegal cigarettes in the UK now comes from those countries and Poland.

The illegal trade in cigarettes is not a victimless crime. Illicit whites, unregulated cigarettes made predominately for smuggling, are not brought back by visitors abroad but smuggled in by the container load by organised crime and terrorist groups. By purchasing illegal tobacco people are supporting organised crime. Every cigarette funds the availability of drugs on our streets, gun crime or terrorist attacks, making our communities and our streets less safe.

The widespread availability of illicit tobacco has a devastating impact on our local communities. It not only undermines legitimate retailers but leads to a knock-on effect in local crime generally.

Will O’Reilly

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