London unites to stamp out dangerous illegal tobacco

  • By Jourdan Wong-Mu...

A London-wide campaign to tackle the scourge of cheap and illegal tobacco, led by London boroughs, is returning to the capital this summer.

The campaign, supported by London Councils, London Trading Standards, Public Health England London and London Association of Directors of Public Health aims to highlight the dangers of the illegal tobacco trade and encourage members of the public to report premises and individuals that sell it.

As part of the campaign, roadshows involving sniffer dogs, Public Health and Trading Standards officers, the Fire Brigade and other partners will visit locations across London throughout July, providing information to the public about the different types of illegal tobacco and the importance of stamping out the trade.

Last year over 21,000 illegal tobacco products were seized in a series of raids across 11 London boroughs, as a result of the intelligence gathered from the roadshows. This year 23 London boroughs are participating in the campaign.

Criminal networks are estimated to be making over £100 million a year from the illegal tobacco trade in London, bringing crime into local communities and undermining efforts to support smokers to quit.

Illegal tobacco products are unregulated, untaxed and often sold under-the-counter, or as  ‘singles’, which means they are available at lower prices, making it easier for children to buy them and to start smoking from a young age.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, London Councils’ Executive member for health and care, said:

“The threat of illegal tobacco should not be underestimated as it exposes young people to the dangers of smoking and undermines people’s efforts to improve their health by giving up smoking.

“London boroughs are continuing the fight against the sale and distribution of illegal tobacco products thanks to this campaign, and we hope to build on successes of last year’s campaign by improving awareness of the consequences of supporting this trade, and helping people to recognise and report illegal tobacco when they encounter it.

“Together we can build a healthier, safer city for our communities and stamp out illegal tobacco.”

Steve Playle from London Trading Standards, said:

"London Trading Standards takes illegal tobacco very seriously and have been working hard to reduce supply and demand. We share intelligence on local dealers and come down hard on criminals who break the law. Roadshows have proven to be an effective way to gather intelligence from the public and it appears more and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco."

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director, Public Health England London said:

“All tobacco is harmful but illegal tobacco makes it easier for young people to start smoking and harder for adults to quit. The sellers of illegal tobacco do not care who they are selling to, which undermines efforts to improve the health of Londoners. The illegal tobacco trade is controlled by criminal gangs who also deal in drugs, people trafficking and prostitution; further entrenching inequality and deprivation in our local communities. Public Health England is working to reduce health inequalities, as well as partnering law enforcement and trading standards agencies to tackle the illegal tobacco trade. Anyone who wants to quit smoking can find support via either through their local stop smoking services or the Smokefree NHS website.”

Dr Somen Banerjee, London Association of Directors of Public Health Lead for Tobacco and Director of Public Health, said:

“Smoking is a deadly habit that remains one of the biggest causes of preventable early deaths in the capital. The impact of cheap illegal tobacco on young people is a concern, particularly in deprived parts of London, as its cheapness makes it easier to begin this habit and exposes them to its dangers from an early age.

“We want to play our role in raising awareness and reducing the availability of illegal tobacco, creating a healthier environment for Londoners.”

Dr Tom Coffey, Mayoral Health Advisor, said:

“The sale of illegal tobacco is proven to be harmful. Evidence shows that illegal tobacco sales encourage children and young people to smoke, and damage communities. We support this London-wide campaign to highlight the dangers of illegal tobacco sales and build a healthier, safer city.”

Telltale signs of illegal tobacco include:

  • Packets with foreign language health warnings
  • Packets with no picture health warnings
  • Being much cheaper than normal cigarettes (i.e. between £3.50 and £5.00 per pack of 20)
  • Unusual or foreign brand names, such as Jin Ling – or those from Russia and the Far East.
  • Being sold in unusual locations, i.e. barber shops, newsagents, hardware shops, burger vans or by individuals outside betting shops

If Londoners see any tobacco products that match the description above or have information which may be useful, they are advised to call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or report it online at Londoners can also access information and telephone support through the London stop smoking portal at:


Notes to editors

For more information call the London Councils press office on 0207 934 9841. 

Illegal tobacco roadshows will take place in the following locations during the campaign:




Sat 30 June

Royal Greenwich

Royal Arsenal, Woolwich  SE18

Sat 7 July


Lewisham People’s Day, Mountfield Park, SE6 1AN

Sun 8 July


Opposite Waterstones, 158-160 High Road, Ilford IG1 1LL

Mon 9 July


Hounslow High Street near Holy Trinity Church

Tues 10 July


Civic Centre, London Rd Morden SM4 5DX

Wed 11 July


Civic Centre, 44 Richmond Rd, Twickenham TW1 3BZ

Thurs 12 July


Intu Uxbridge Shopping Centre, Uxbridge High Street UB8

Fri 13 July

City of London

North west churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral, EC4M 8AD

Sat 14 July


Rotherhithe Festival, King George Fields, SE16

Mon 16 July


Church Street Market, NW8 8DT

Tues 17 July

Kensington and Chelsea

Portobello Market W11 1AN

Wed 18 July

Tower Hamlets

Chrisp Street Market E14 6AQ

Thurs 19 July

Waltham Forest

Walthamstow Town Square, E17 7JN

Fri 20 July


Inverness Street market, NW1 7HB, off Camden High Street

Sat 21 July


The Broadwalk Centre Station Road Edgware HA8 7BD

Mon 23 July


Foundation Island, the Town, Enfield Town EN2 6CD

Tues 24 July

Barking and Dagenham

                          Barking Market, East Street, Barking, IG11 8GN

Wed 25 July


Hollywood Green, Vue Cinema, 180 High Rd, Wood Green London N22 6EJ

Thurs 26 July


Islington Town Hall, Upper Street N1 2UD

Fri 27 July


The Narrow Way, Mare Street, Hackney, E8 1HY

Sat 28 July


Windrush Square, Brixton, SW2 1JQ

Sun 29 July


Roneo Corner Tesco, Romford RM12


Stalls will be held at the following location:



Brent Civic Centre, Engineer’s Way HA9 OFJ