The King’s Speech: Say No To Legal Cigarettes, Say Yes To Counterfeit Cigarettes?

In the most recent King’s Speech, 7th November 2023, King Charles III confirmed that the UK Government will introduce legislation that ensures no one born on or after 1 January 2009 can ever be legally sold cigarettes or other tobacco products.

This phasing out of cigarettes for younger generations has been praised across the health sector with Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), saying:ASH congratulates the government for paving the way in the King’s Speech for a ground-breaking bill to create a smokefree generation to be introduced to Parliament imminently.”

While health leaders may welcome the phasing out of smoking announced in The King’s Speech, as leaders in anti-counterfeiting we are incredibly concerned that this proposed ban could create an opportunity for counterfeiters to thrive, causing detrimental effects on the health of the general public, predominantly young people. How, you may wonder? Read on to find out.

A Rise of Counterfeit Cigarettes

Counterfeiters prey on product shortages and subsequent increased demand. From a rise in counterfeit pharmaceuticals during the Covid-19 pandemic to a rise in counterfeit products during Black Friday, it is common for counterfeiters to prey on vulnerabilities in supply chains, identifying gaps or opportunities where they can exploit demand for certain products. Our concern, as pioneers in the fight against counterfeiting, is that by phasing out the sale of legitimate cigarettes, the UK government have created a gap in the market that counterfeiters can target, causing an increase in counterfeit cigarettes.

With no one born after January 2009 able to legitimately buy cigarettes in the UK, we are likely to see a rise in the illicit trade of cigarettes. On the one hand, there will be those who will illegally sell previously legal cigarettes to those under the age restriction. Meanwhile, counterfeiters will look to target those under the age limit with counterfeit cigarettes. Seeing as these cigarettes can contain weedkillers, metal splinters, dead insects and rat faeces according to leading tobacco company JTI, this would lead to significant health risks for young people, a direct contradiction with the UK government’s aim.

anti counterfeiting for tobacco

The Solution to Counterfeit Cigarettes

While there are undoubtedly positives to the UK’s proposed phasing out of cigarettes, the risk of rising counterfeits cannot be downplayed.

The UK Government and leading tobacco manufacturers need to urgently work with anti-counterfeiters to implement product authentication measures for the tobacco industry that will prevent the stubbing out of legal cigarettes leading to a spark up of counterfeit cigarettes.

Our Q-ID® Optical tags provide security at an atomic level, exploiting the inherent randomness of quantum materials to create a solution which cannot be cloned by tobacco counterfeiters. These unique identities (we call them the Quantum Signature) can be integrated easily into any existing manufacturing process and once applied to packaging, can be read by a standard smartphone camera. This means that product authentication can take place in just a few seconds by both consumers and suppliers, stopping counterfeits entering supply chains and reaching customers.

You can find out more about our anti-counterfeiting solution here or contact our team to see how we can support your brand with stubbing out counterfeits.