Find out about illegal tobacco sales in Tower Hamlets

Residents can head over to Chrisp Street Market to meet the four-legged friends responsible for sniffing out illegal tobacco and receive advice on how to stop smoking.

On Wednesday 18 July, the illegal tobacco roadshow will return to Chrisp Street Market. The event, manned by the council’s trading standards team, their intrepid canine helpers and health support services, will give advice to people wanting to quit smoking while raising awareness about the impact illegal tobacco can have and how it is tackled.

Returning after last year’s success, the event will run from 10am until 5pm. It’s also an opportunity for residents to raise any concerns they may have about fake cigarettes and tobacco being sold in their area.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“Tower Hamlets has a zero tolerance approach to illegal tobacco and this is a fantastic opportunity for residents to find out more about the work we do.

“Illegal tobacco is sold cheaply but has particular health risks, and this is something we need to protect our residents from. It also encourages and often funds other crimes in our community.”

Cllr Denise Jones, Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Cigarettes that are sold illicitly are not properly inspected and do not carry appropriate health warnings which play an important role in increasing awareness of the health risks associated with smoking. 

“Helping residents stop smoking is a huge priority for the council as you not only improve your health but those of people around you exposed to the toxins and poisons in second hand smoke.”


Residents who are unable to attend, but need help to stop smoking or using Paan should contact the BME Stop Tobacco Project on 020 7882 8669 (women) or 020 7882 8660 (men).

Stop smoking services in Tower Hamlets are free and very effective in helping people quit smoking and smokeless tobacco. For information on stopping smoking services visit:

Further information is available at

What is illegal tobacco?

On 20 May 2017, the law changed and now requires cigarettes to be sold in minimum quantities of 20s with plain (olive green) packaging and prescribed health warnings.

Illegal tobacco – also known as illicit tobacco – is cigarettes and tobacco which:

  • Have been manufactured legally abroad, but have been imported illegally to the United Kingdom.

  • Are counterfeit (manufactured illegally) and sold using a legitimate trademark, despite having no relation.

  • Are genuine cigarettes but have been smuggled into the United Kingdom.

What are the risks?

Unregulated and often sold under-the-counter, illegal tobacco is often cheaper, making it easier for children to buy.

How to spot illegal tobacco

Tell-tale signs of illegal tobacco include:

  • Packets with foreign language health warnings

  • Packets with no picture health warnings

  • Being much cheaper than normal cigarettes

  • Unusual or foreign brand names

  • Being sold in unusual locations, such as pubs, private houses, ice cream vans or burger vans


What is Tower Hamlets Council doing to tackle illegal tobacco?

In July 2017, the council joined Stamp it Out, a London-based campaign tackling illegal tobacco sales. Following this, a roadshow was held in Chrisp Street Market where residents were encouraged to tell officers about suppliers of illicit tobacco.

A series of visits and seizures have also been made over the last year to sites within the borough.

Operation Stromboli was set up by Tower Hamlets Council to target business traders and individuals involved in the sale and supply of illicit tobacco and alcohol. This aims to disrupt the sale of counterfeit, incorrectly labelled and non-duty paid tobacco and alcohol.

During a recent two-day operation £8,000 of illegal tobacco was seized, which included 12,360 cigarettes, 2,250g of hand-rolling tobacco and 68 pots of chewing tobacco. Find out more in this article:  

Thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco seized in Tower Hamlets

Posted on Tuesday 17th July 2018