Both HMRC and the TMA have documented a significant rise in the past few years of seizures of bulk quantities of smuggled cigarettes manufactured specifically for the illegal tobacco market - known in the business as 'Cheap Whites'. The proportion of established brands manufactured by BAT, Gallagher and Imperial Tobacco in near non-EU nations, which used to form the bulk of smuggling seizures, are now in a substantial minority. Smugglers have also stopped trying to counterfeit established brands - they can replicate the packs, but not the cigarettes, and it's the characteristics of the smokes that sells.
So prevalent have some lines of Cheap Whites become in parts of the UK where the majority of cigarette sales are now non-dutied through boot sales and under-counter trades that they are establishing brand loyalties; people like cigarette characteristics they are used to, in terms of taste, strength, throat-feel, acridity and so on, and when they find an illegal brand that mimics, say, Superkings will stick with it.
Which offers the intriguing possibility that with the government's moves to introduce plain packaging for the legitimate TMA members already feeling the pinch, it's unlikely the Cheap Whites will follow step; if anything, they will surely tend to improve their pack image.
Here are some Cheap Whites seized by HMRC; I quite like the 'Raquels' myself; nice font, and an appeal to the over-50s who still can't forget their first sight of that leather bikini ...