Illegal Tobacco and Alcohol

The Trading Standards service remains committed to ongoing disruption and enforcement work around the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and alcohol in the Newcastle area. Regular partnership working with Northumbria Police, HMRC and Immigration has seen hundreds of thousands of illegal cigarettes and bootleg drink seized from licensed and business premises, and residential properties. 

Where licensed premises are found to be selling illegal tobacco and alcohol, they are at risk of losing their licence as well as facing prosecution. This is a tactic which the City Council has successfully used in the past. 

Keep it Out is the campaign for 'North of England tackling Illegal tobacco for Better Health' programme which Fresh Smoke Free North East has led since 2009. Since its launch, the region has had success in reducing the volume of illegal tobacco bought by 39%, and the number of smokers buying illegal tobacco has fallen by 10%. This is estimated to have saved around £36 million duty and tax. The overall national market has shown a massive decline by half in the last decade thanks to major national and international action.

In the period between October and December 2018 we seized 169,640 cigarettes and 11.6 Kg's of hand-rolling tobacco as part of operational work with our partners. So far in 2019-2020, since April 2019 we have seized a further 49,140 cigarettes and 6.85 Kg's of hand-rolling tobacco. 

Spotting illegal tobacco

  • unusual taste

  • popular brand or foreign brand names such as Raquel or Jin Ling

  • cheap price (less than £3.50 for a pack of 20)

  • health warnings on cigarette packaging might not be in English, might not display a picture, might not be printed on a white background and may have different sized lettering to usual

  • unusual packaging (spelling mistakes, wrong logos, discoloured packaging)

  • the print quality of the detail on the cigarette is noticeably worse

The harm of illegal tobacco

  • Health: Young people can access cheap cigarettes because sales are unregulated, so they make it easier fro children to take up the habit

  • Cost: Tobacco smuggling costs the government more than £3 billion annually in lost revenue. Reducing the illegal market would mean more money being paid to the government and less tax needing to be raised by other means

  • Crime: Similar to drug dealing the distribution of cheap, smuggled and fake tobacco products increases the instances of criminality and nuisance in communities and neighbourhoods. The recession and falling demand has forced many drugs gangs to turn to selling illegal tobacco to vulnerable people as a source of easy cash    

  • Safety: All legal cigarettes are manufactured to meet a reduced ignition propensity (RIP) requirement. This means that they are self-extinguishable, to reduce the chance that they could set fire to upholstered furniture in the home.     

You can report anyone selling illegal tobacco and alcohol to us anonymously using our online report form, or you can also contact us directly. 

All of this work underpins the delivery of the Smokefree Newcastle strategy. To see the 2018-2019 report go to Report (pdf 360 kb)   


The Trading Standards service publishes a bi-annual newsletter, which provides updates on our work. To access a copy of the latest edition go to High Standard (pdf 1.9 mb)

Press Articles

To see the results of our work to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco products in Newcastle go to the Chronicle of the 21 December 2018, the Chronicle of the 8 May 2019, the Chronicle of the 14 May 2019 and BWY Canine of the 4 June 2019.  


Trading Standards service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH. Phone: (0191) 2116121. Email: 

Related Pages

Need more information?

Keep It Out

Online Report Form

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