Counterfeit cigarettes contain disturbing toxic substances

  • 31 October 2011

The ICC Counterfeit Intelligence Bureau (CIB) has previously reported that counterfeit cigarettes have been known to contain a mixture of lethal substance well in excess of the toxins found in ordinary cigarettes.

Now a new report issued by a special division of Canada’s national police force has identified even more disturbing items found inside counterfeit cigarettes.

Studies have shown that when compared to legal cigarettes, fake smokes can contain five times the level of cadmium, six times as much lead, 160 percent more tar and 133 percent more carbon monoxide. Cigarettes recently intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Border Integrity Unit were found to contain human feces, dead flies, mould, and insect eggs.

Canadian officials commenting on the case warned of the dangerous contents of counterfeit cigarettes. Corporal Norm Massie of the RCMP noted: “You never know what you’re smoking. People think cigarettes are cigarettes are cigarettes. That’s not true.”

Vancouver’s chief medical officer, Dr John Blatherwick warned of the health risks that attempting to save a few dollars might bring, stating: “People think it’s a great deal, the truth is they’re not getting a great deal. They’re getting a lousy deal. You could be taking all sorts of things into your lungs. You’re opening your body up to a whole bunch of things you have no control over.”

Peter Lowe, CIB Assistant Director stated: “The common belief about cheap cigarettes is that they are the genuine product smuggled into the country. In London, however, 85 percent of smuggled cigarettes are counterfeit. If people buying cheap cigarettes knew what they might contain, they may think twice about buying them.”

As taxes increase on genuine cigarettes, the illegal market continues to grow. RCMP statistics indicate that for Canada’s Pacific Region seizures of fake cigarettes totaled more than 177 million cartons between 2003 and 2006. In the UK, counterfeit cigarette seizures average more than a million a day.

Other than the obvious health risks involved, there are also negative economic issues. The loss of sales of genuine product and the absence of tax collected hurts the economy twice over. In Canada, illegal cigarettes are responsible for $1.5 Billion in lost tax revenues each year. These are dollars not going towards the Canadian Healthcare system or educating minors about the dangers associated with lung cancer.

Mr Lowe added, “While the detrimental effects of smoking genuine cigarettes are well publicised, less well known are the risks associated with using counterfeit products. More effort is required to educate smokers about the serious health risks attributable to smoking counterfeit tobacco products.”