New results from JTI (Japan Tobacco International) – the UK’s leading tobacco manufacturer[2] – found illicit tobacco to be on sale in 61% of stores test purchased in the Bolton area.

Test purchasers acting on behalf of JTI were able to buy illicit tobacco in 19 out of the 31 stores visited. Packs of illegal cigarettes were on sale for as little as £4.50 – half the price of the cheapest legal product – while counterfeit 50g packs of RYO could be purchased for as little as £5.00 – around one fifth of the price of the genuine product.

Similarly, in 2018, JTI ran its first test purchasing operation in Bolton and found that 62% of stores visited (23 out of 37)[3] were selling illicit tobacco, illustrating how ingrained the problem is.

Additional consumer research conducted for JTI[4] also reveals that a quarter of cigarettes and half of RYO tobacco consumed last year in the North West was not subject to UK taxes, making it one of the highest regions in England for levels of non?UK duty paid consumption.

Ian Howell, UK Anti-Illicit Trade Manager at JTI, commented: “Selling illegal tobacco damages legitimate business, supports criminal organisations and makes it easier for young people to get hold of tobacco products, and the results from our latest test purchasing shows how entrenched the illegal tobacco trade is in Bolton. 

“JTI, along with Trading Standards, who are often supported by HMRC and the Police, is committed to helping tackle the problem of illegal tobacco in the Bolton area. Trading Standard’s ‘Keep It Out’ campaign has continued to play its part, alongside recent enforcement action – including the revocation of premises licenses for two Bolton retailers this summer[5]. Law abiding retailers are at the front line of the fight against illicit tobacco, and therefore we urge any retailer that suspects illegal tobacco is being sold in their area to contact the relevant authorities to help root out these criminals.” 

If retailers or the public are aware of anybody selling illicit tobacco, JTI encourages them to report it. This can be done using the ‘report’ feature on www.jtiadvance/DontBeComplict  or by calling the HM Revenue & Customs’ Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887, Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

These regional findings follow the recent launch of JTI’s “Postcode Calculator”– a free-to-use online tool on www.jtiadvance/DontBeComplict which enables retailers to find out how their local area is affected by illicit tobacco and raise awareness about the damaging impact illicit tobacco has on local communities across the UK. By simply entering a postcode area (e.g. BL for the Bolton area), retailers can find out how many seizures and/or prosecutions have taken place near that location since 2017, including estimates of the quantity and total value of illegal tobacco reported.

[2] IRi Market Place, Volume Share, Total Tobacco Category, Total UK, Aug 2020

[3] Details of the stores where illegal tobacco was obtained in 2018 and this year have been made available to law enforcement authorities.

[4] JTI Pack Swap survey

[5] Shop licence revoked as owner fails to show up to two hearings. Bolton News 5 August 2020 & Breightmet shopkeeper accused of selling single cigarettes to kids loses licence. Bolton News, 13 August 2020

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