AUTHORITIES have warned of dangerous fake cigarettes found in stores containing RAT feces.
Due to the pandemic, criminals have turned to making and selling fake cigarettes in a boom in the illegal tobacco trade – but here’s how to tell if your queers are fakes.
Will O’Reilly, illegal tobacco investigator and former Scotland Yard detective, said: âThe lockdown has led to an increase in the illegal tobacco trade in the UK.
âPeople buy these products without thinking about the hidden dangers both to their own health and to their community.
“It surprises me that people are willing to take these risks – especially when there are cheaper legal alternatives to smoking, like heated tobacco and e-cigarettes.”
Last month, an illegal cigarette factory was seized in Armagh, Northern Ireland, which was capable of producing more than 390 million cigarettes a year.
Customs officials and police seized 11 tonnes of loose tobacco and 1.6 million cigarettes – and the factory was also linked to terrorists.
And at another factory in Cricklewood, north London, officers found piles of rotten loose tobacco on the ground containing rodent droppings that were being turned into fake cigarettes.
And authorities believe the rise in illegal cigarette consumption has been accelerated by the lockdown as smugglers have been unable to travel from country to country.
Mr O’Reilly added: ‘Gangs are setting up factories in the UK and trafficking people to work in these factories, often from Eastern Europe.
“There has also been an increase in the bulk smuggling of so-called ‘illicit whites’ – cigarettes legally produced outside the EU and the UK, then imported on container ships and trucks.”
How to tell if your cigarettes are fake
Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Packages without pictorial health warnings
- Fully branded packaging, not in standardized neutral packaging
- Packages with health warnings in a foreign language
- Packs displaying the same code on the basis of each pack which is supposed to be unique.
- Stock kept out of sight in stores and away from regular tobacco display cases
- Low cost compared to normal cigarettes – for example a 20 pack of illegal cigarettes can cost as little as Â£ 4-5
- Unusual or foreign brands
- Availability in unusual places, such as pubs, market stalls, private homes and internet vendors.
Criminals are using social media like Facebook to advertise their illegal cigarettes – and with less contraband available, the price of counterfeits has gone up.
Speaking of the rotten environments that fake queers are made in, Mr O’Reilly said: âThe problem for consumers is that illegal tobacco is not regulated at all.
“We saw evidence, particularly in a factory I visited in Cricklewood, London, of piles of rotten loose tobacco on the ground containing rodent droppings.
âIt was fed straight into a machine, with water coming from a filthy toilet bowl.
âThe ingredients are known to contain a higher proportion of carcinogenic chemicals than in regulated products. “
There are also no flame retardants in these illegal cigarettes – meaning that if someone leaves a burning cigarette in an ashtray, it won’t go out on its own.
Illicit cigarettes are therefore known to cause house fires and even deaths.
Mr O’Reilly continued: âFrom our infiltration trial purchase work, we have seen that the current price of contraband cigarettes – tax-dodging – is around Â£ 7.50. packet of counterfeit cigarettes sells for around Â£ 4.
âIt’s hard for people to tell the difference. We have seen examples of counterfeits simulated to look like contraband.
âSo you think they’re safer, and you just dodge the tax, but the gangs have a head start.
âWe have also seen cigarettes in single packets look like real British cigarettes. Some dishonest retailers even sell them on their portals as proper products. “
But there are some warning signs people should watch out for to make sure they’re not buying fake cigarettes.
Packages without pictorial health warnings or with warnings in foreign languages ââcould be a sign that the cigarettes are not genuine.
And packages that display the same code on the basis of each package – which is supposed to be unique – are also a sign that you are buying fags.
Inventories kept out of sight in stores and away from ordinary tobacco display cases could also be a problem, as well as if they are sold in unusual places, such as pubs, market stalls, private homes and Internet sellers.
Alternatives to cigarettes
The best thing a smoker can do is give up completely. However, there are fewer harmful alternatives available. Here are some of the options:
- Vaping – Electronic cigarettes and vapers deliver nicotine in different flavors without toxic smoke. Public Health England says vaping is not without risk, but much less harmful than smoking tobacco.
- Heated tobacco – Heated tobacco systems such as IQOS are electronically heated rather than burnt, reducing toxin levels compared to cigarettes.
- Nicotine substitutes – These come in many forms such as patches, inhalers, gums, lozenges and nasal sprays.