Almost half of smokers in Wales have been offered illegal tobacco to buy and 15% of all tobacco sold in Wales is illegal, according to new research published by ASH Wales. Wales has one of the largest illegal tobacco markets compared to each of the English regions.

ASH Wales has commissioned the first ever survey into the scale and extent of the illegal tobacco market in Wales. The findings suggest that a quarter of Welsh smokers buy illegal tobacco with almost 60% of them buying at least once a month.

Illegal tobacco includes foreign brands made especially for the black market; cigarettes and tobacco smuggled from countries with lower taxes and counterfeit or fake cigarettes. It is often sold under the counter in shops and bars, in private houses and in car boot sales. The cigarettes sold on the black market are much cheaper than legal cigarettes making it easier for children to start smoking. The people who sell illegal tobacco are often linked to the selling of other illegal goods like drugs and alcohol, therefore buying illegal tobacco helps support organised crime.

The Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, said, “Smoking is one of the leading causes of early death; and we are implementing a comprehensive range of measures to reduce the harm caused by tobacco. The trade in illegal tobacco is undermining our efforts to control tobacco use and to help people give up smoking.”

“It is important that we support more people to quit smoking. Stoptober is a great opportunity for smokers to be part of the challenge and give up.”

Mark Drakeford - Health Minister

“It is shocking that Wales has such a large illegal tobacco market. There needs to be investment and a comprehensive strategy to tackle the issue. The North East of England also had high sales of illegal tobacco but investment and a concerted campaign with several partners working together has brought the level down to 9% compared to 15% in 2009.”

Elen de Lacy, Chief Executive of ASH Wales

"We look forward to working with enforcement agencies and other partners to have a positive impact on the use and attitudes towards illegal tobacco highlighted by the survey results published today.”

Steve Hay, Illegal Tobacco Programme Manager for ASH Wales

ASH Wales will be launching the report on at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on September 17th on the eve of their international conference on Tackling Health Inequalities through Tobacco Control.

Notes:

  • NEMS Market Research conducted the survey with 2,547 telephone and face-to-face interviews across each of the 22 local authorities in Wales.
  • The cheap tobacco market in Wales accounts for 19% of tobacco consumption, with 15% being illicit tobacco and 4% duty free.
  • Almost half (45%) of smokers have been offered illegal tobacco to buy.
  • A quarter of smokers buy illegal tobacco and this makes up an average of 42% of their total consumption.
  • Where people buy illegal tobacco:
    • Private address – 52%
    • Pub/club – 45%
    • Shops – 19%
    • Street sellers – 16%
  • 59% buy illegal tobacco at least once a month with only 9% buying once a year.
  • The average price of 20 illegal cigarettes is £4.
  • 53% agree strongly that illegal tobacco brings crime into their community and 43% agree strongly that it encourages gangs and anti-social behaviour.
  • 70% of buyers agree strongly that illegal tobacco makes it possible to smoke when they couldn’t otherwise afford it.
  • ASH Wales is the only voluntary organisation in Wales with the sole task of tackling the ill health caused by tobacco use. Our main aim is to achieve a reduction in, and eventual elimination of, the health problems associated with tobacco use.