Fake cigarette scandal: dead flies and more

Recipe to make fake cigarettes: add asbestos, a little bit of mold, dead flies, and finally, human excrement.

Amidst the cigarette smuggling cases that have surfaced in the U.K., British detectives recently uncovered that some of the counterfeits had been composed of these repugnant substances.

“I have never ever heard that,” said an anonymous employee at a large North Carolina tobacco outlet. “That is crazy. If this is a true story, I know I wouldn’t smoke.”

Others may think twice before lighting a cigarette for now but for some, habits will be habits.

“I’ve been smoking for like two years,” said an anonymous student. “You don’t suddenly quit a habit because of a blip in a kind of tobacco you may not even smoke.”

According to Russia Today, Swiss-based brand protection company, MS Intelligence, launched Operation Empty Discarded Pack Collection. Through this investigation, undercover detectives spent weeks looking through litter bins and scanning pavements for cigarette butts to understand the scale of the black markets, reported Sunday Mercury.

MS Intelligence found that 31 percent of the retrieved cigarette packets were either counterfeits or smuggled into the country, compared to the mere 14 percent last year.

In Derbyshire of England, a load of cigarettes were made from crushed dead flies.

Will O’Reilly, former Scotland Yard detective and current researcher for tobacco group Philip Morris, told Sunday Mercury, “Bring a container of cigarettes into this country and you’re talking 1.5 million British pounds, which roughly equates to $2.4 million.

This isn’t the first time black markets of the tobacco industry have cheated brand name companies and taxpayers. A spokesman for lobby group International Tax and Investment Centre said, “Duty (tax) goes unpaid on almost one in three cigarettes smoked in Birmingham.”

Nowadays, many fake cigarettes originate from the Far East, especially China, and are in packaging almost identical to the real thing. Sunday Mercury reported that trade is no longer dominated by so-called “White Van Man” bulk-buying abroad, but rather, the system has become much more elaborate.

These types of cigarettes, nicknamed “whites” in the industry, are legally produced abroad for the purpose of smuggling into other markets, such as the U.K. market. They are then sold illegally to avoid tax deduction.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance in the U.K. found that 12.2 billion British pounds, or $19.8 billion, was lost to the illegal cigarette trade in the financial year of 2009-2010. In addition, a significant 50 percent of hand-rolled tobacco is illegal.

The lack of certainty in the tobacco products being sold is a large concern.

“There are certain regulations we have to follow because of fake cigarettes,” said an anonymous employee at the North Carolina tobacco outlet. “We have limits on kinds of cigarettes, and we can’t return any cigarettes because we can’t guarantee that the cigarettes coming back to us are real.”

The sheer volume of the illicit trade and discovery of unnatural substances has been gaining attention from both smokers and nonsmokers.

While some smokers may think of dead flies next time they grab a cigarette, others remain apathetic to the discovery.

“After Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ did people become skeptical of eating meat for a significant period of time?” asked Early College student Yasir Azam. “No,” Azam answered his own question. “A short drop in sales, then publicity of ‘reform,’ followed by amnesia. Smokers will forget this just as they forgot the rats in their hotdogs.”