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Illegal tobacco market exposed in lockdown raids

Trading Standards has released the details of some recent seizures, to show the public that any cheap tobacco bought during lockdown and touted as ‘duty free’, often sold under the counter in local shops, is illegal tobacco (smuggled or fake).

The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership has released a video that shows a raid on May 12, 2020, during lockdown when overseas travel was restricted.

A large volume of illegal cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco was found, to view this video head to YouTube.

Kate Pike, the lead on tobacco at Trading Standards North West, said: “We visited this shop after receiving intelligence that illegal tobacco was being sold. We found illegal tobacco behind a locked door in a grubby stairwell. A sliding hatch went through to the shop, so illegal tobacco could be passed through to whoever was behind the counter. We found a staff house where lots of people were sleeping on the floor – this is the real human cost of ‘cheap’ cigarettes or tobacco. We are working with partners across Greater Manchester to drive down the illicit trade. If you know where illegal tobacco is for sale, please get in touch. We will take action wherever and whenever we find illegal tobacco being sold.”

Tobacco bought on the illegal market is likely to be the result of organised criminal activity with links to human trafficking, the drugs trade and loan sharks, bringing crime into Greater Manchester communities and exploiting vulnerable people. Dealers will also sell the products to children, which can lead to them getting addicted to smoking.

Andrea Crossfield, the ‘making smoking history’ lead at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, added: “Illegal tobacco might seem like a bargain, but it comes at a high price to our kids and our communities. Legal or illegal, all tobacco contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals which will kill one in two long term smokers. Illegal cigarettes are often responsible for getting children started on this lethal addiction, because of their availability at pocket money prices and because dealers don’t care who they sell to. The crackdown on illegal tobacco is part of Greater Manchester’s wider efforts to cut smoking rates and make smoking history for future generations.”

If you are aware of any sales of illegal tobacco, you can report it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or on the website,

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