The NFRN, one of Europe’s largest employers’ associations representing over 15,000 UK retailers, and leading UK FMCG manufacturer Imperial Tobacco are delighted to announce they have teamed up to help educate independent retailers and UK smokers about the growing trade in illegal tobacco.

50,000 anti-illicit trade (AIT) packs branded with Imperial’s award-winning Suspect it? Report it! campaign are being distributed to all retailers throughout the UK during January. Each pack contains a range of in-store activation materials, including infographics, posters and stickers. These resources have been specifically created to raise awareness among retailers, their staff and adult smoker customers in understanding the multitude of threats to government, retail industry and society posed by the illicit tobacco trade.

Peter Nelson, AIT Manager, Imperial Tobacco comments: “Latest reports* suggest around 1 in 6 factory made cigarettes and 2 in 5 hand-rolled cigarettes smoked in the UK are of an illicit nature, which is among the highest in the EU. This illegal product can often be unregulated; it also threatens retailers’ livelihoods, brings criminal elements into local communities and deprives the Government of billions of pounds in much-needed tax revenue each year.

“With the full transition to standardised – or ‘plain’ – packaging on 20 May fast approaching, it is likely that tobacco manufacturers, enforcement bodies and retailers alike will have to contend with a increased threat from the illicit trade in the near future, so the release of these Suspect it? Report it! information packs comes at a particularly crucial time.

“We strongly believe that collaboration between government, industry and law enforcement is the only way to achieve long-term success, with all partners working together in a focused manner to achieve the Government’s objectives of not only reducing the illegal trade, but also helping restrict youth access to prohibited products.”

Paul Baxter, Chief Executive, NFRN adds: “The growing trade in illicit tobacco products is doing irreparable damage to both the independent retail sector and the communities that they serve.

“Independent retailers operate policies such as ‘Challenge 25’ and verify the age of their customers before selling them tobacco products but those behind the illicit trade make no such checks, happily selling their products to young people. But that’s not our only concern. The health and safety of people who smoke counterfeit cigarettes is seriously at risk from the highly unpleasant ingredients they can contain.

“This important campaign shows that independent retailers, manufacturers and the public can work together to fight against the criminal gangs who damage local businesses and communities by their continued trade in illicit tobacco products.

“By working with Imperial we aim to raise the profile of all the dangers associated with illicit tobacco, discourage the public from buying their products from illicit sources and encourage them to report suspicious activity to the police or trading standards. We will also be urging our members to get fully behind this scheme and to display the point of sale material prominently within their stores.”

If you would like to read more about the illicit trade, please visit the Suspect it? Report it! website at, or follow the campaign on Twitter at @suspect_report. NFRN members can obtain help and advice from NFRN Connect on 0800 121 6376, or from the NFRN website here

In the meantime, if you have any suspicions around the sale of illegal tobacco where you live, report it! Please act by contacting either the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000, NFRN Connect or your local Trading Standards/Police. Retailers can also contact their designated Imperial Tobacco sales representative.

Reminder to NFRN members – don’t forget to look out for your trade pack in your tote boxes. 

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