Prevention: MoU

Our strategic approach has included regulatory change, new sanctions and detection technology and enhanced partnership working with other enforcement agencies… and the tobacco manufacturers.”

– Tackling Illicit Tobacco – From Leaf to Light. HMRC and Border Force Strategy to Tackle Tobacco Smuggling (March 2015)


One of the cornerstones of the Government’s Tackling Tobacco Smuggling strategy and the fight against tobacco smuggling is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the TMA’s member companies and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).  The first MoU was signed in April 2002 with a revised, common MoU signed in March 2006.


The MoU creates a comprehensive framework for co-operation aimed at combating the smuggling of both genuine and counterfeit tobacco products into the UK as well as seeking to deter all aspects of the illicit trade in tobacco products. To supplement the MoU key elements of the agreement have been enshrined in legislation (*) so that any tobacco company, operating anywhere in the world, is under the same obligations as the TMA’s member companies to ensure that it does not allow its products to be smuggled. A guide to this legislation (**) is available from the HMRC website.


However, the MoU goes further than the legislation. For example, there is an undertaking that both industry and HMRC will work together to identify and assess technologies that could be of benefit in tackling the trade in illicit tobacco products. The development of the covert anti-counterfeit technology introduced on cigarette packs in the UK in 2007 is a prime example of the benefit of the MoU approach in identifying particular concerns and quickly arriving at effective solutions.


A revised MoU was signed in Autumn 2013, further details are available from HMRC.


(*) The Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979 (as amended by the Finance Act 2006)

(**) Notice 477. Tobacco products duty: control of supply chains