The scourge of illicit tobacco: what independent retailers can do to help stub out illegal tobacco sales


The sale of illegal tobacco continues to be a prevalent issue for convenience stores. Charles Whitting and Megan Humphrey look at how retailers, industry bodies and the police are fighting back

The fight goes on

Illicit tobacco is a scourge that has hurt independent retailers for many years, not to mention society as a whole. As well as taking away valuable sales and profits from honest suppliers and retailers, the sale of illicit tobacco products funds other illegal activities, puts sub-quality and even toxic products into circulation, and makes underage smoking a far harder problem to police and reduce.

“I don’t think Covid-19 has changed the situation at all, and my customers say they’re still getting it all the time. It’s on Instagram, people saying that they’re going to get it,” says Sophie Towers, from Kibble Bank One Stop in Burnley, Lancashire. “And people are selling it on Facebook.”

Retail Express has been working tirelessly to support retailers and police forces fighting illicit tobacco, and, last year, launched the ‘Stubbing Out Illicit’ campaign, which removed many counterfeit cigarettes from the country. But the scale of the problem is considerable.

“According to the latest KPMG report on illicit tobacco, the UK is ranked second for illicit cigarette consumption of the 30 European nations included in the study. More than 17% of cigarettes here were recorded as counterfeit and contraband (C&C) – that’s a staggering 5.2 billion individual cigarettes. Scotland’s consumption of C&C soared from 9% of all cigarettes consumed in 2019 to 15% in 2020 – the highest rise recorded for any part of the UK last year,” says a spokesperson for Philip Morris. “Perhaps most worryingly of all, counterfeit cigarettes alone are at a five-year high in the UK, up 9% versus 2019.”

Read full article here.

Charles Whitting – Better Retailing – 2022-01-18.

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