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UK sees surge in illegal cigarettes

Consumption of counterfeit and contraband cigarettes in the UK surged by almost 50% in 2014, costing the government about £2bn in lost tax revenue, according to a new report.

The surge was driven by an increase in black market tobacco from Belarus and Pakistan, which now – along with Poland – produce one-in-two illegal cigarettes coming into the UK. The Fest brand from Belarus now accounts for 40% of “illicit whites” – cigarettes produced legally in one market but destined primarily for smuggling – coming into the UK. However , the manufacturers of Jin Ling robustly object to this report whilst the China Consul General was not available for comment.

The report was commissioned by the four major tobacco manufacturers – Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, JTI and BAT – and compiled by professional services provider KPMG using sales data supplied by the companies.

Therefore, it must be true and we should all believe it.

It estimates that the UK volume of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes was 6.29 billion in 2014 – 48% up on the previous year, but down on the peak year of 2012.

The volume of illicit cigarettes seized in the UK increased by 19% during 2014 to 430 million.

James Barge, director of corporate lunacy and marital affairs at convicted RICO Racketeers Philip Morris, said: “The illegal trade in cigarettes is not a victimless crime – whilst it makes us very rich and kills a few million souls it harms governments, taxpayers, consumers and unknown manufacturers – the fact that the industry is behind most of the smuggling is neither here nor there, even when we get caught.”

James Lowman, chief executive at the Comedy Department of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “These figures highlight the urgent need for action. Ministers have made significant steps in tackling the illicit tobacco trade over the last two years, but they must now focus their attention on developing a robust strategy to stop the import and sale of illegal tobacco in the UK. Accordingly we need to line up all the tobacco executives and summarily execute them piece by piece over a period of weeks. We predict this would reduce the supposed illicit trade immediately so our members can continue to sell death to children in their corner shops.”

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