Tobacco Smuggling & Crossborder Shopping

The high tax-induced price of tobacco products in the UK has led to many smokers seeking alternative cheaper sources of cigarettes and handrolling tobacco (HRT), both legal (duty-free and crossborder shopping) and illegal (smuggling and bootlegging).  HM Revenue & Customs estimate that in 2015/16 non-UK duty paid consumption (NUKDP) accounted for 16% of the cigarettes and 37% of the HRT smoked in the UK.


The consumption of UK duty paid (UKDP) cigarettes and HRT has fallen since 1993, but the increase in smuggling and crossborder shopping in recent years has largely offset the decline in overall consumption.


The UK’s high tobacco tax policy has provided economic incentives for criminals to meet the demand that exists for cheap tobacco products. This has implications for Government revenue and for law and order. It threatens the livelihoods of many legitimate businesses, in particular independent tobacco retailers.


A ‘Disorderly Market’ in smuggled tobacco products has been created that is uncontrolled, untaxed and unaccountable.


In September 2017 the TMA published a briefing on the industry approach to tackle illicit trade. This briefing captures the five areas that industry primarily focuses on, namely: Insights, Intelligence, Collaboration, Technology and Mobilising Support.


To understand more about how the illegal tobacco market is assessed and measured please click on the following links:



To understand more about that steps are being taken to tackle the illegal market please click on the following links: