Buying cheap cigarettes on the internet: an ASH survey shows it is more risky than you might think

Wednesday 13 June 2001

Embargo:  00.01Wednesday 13 June 2001

Websites claiming to offer cigarettes at duty free prices don’t live up to their promises, and often take credit card details without delivering anything in return, according a new survey out today. This survey, conducted by ASH, showed that most internet sites claiming to offer smokers cigarettes at less than half the UK price either ended up costing much more than promised, or never delivered any cigarettes at all. ASH placed orders at 12 websites advertising cheap cigarettes to customers in the UK. Of the 12 orders, only three shipments of cigarettes were received, and for one of these, the true cost of the shipment (with postage costs and import duty) was double the price quoted and actually no cheaper than buying the cigarettes at a local newsagent. A further order was processed and money was taken, but no cigarettes were ever shipped. The other eight sites took details from the ASH credit card, but didn’t ship any cigarettes. This has sparked concerns about credit card fraud.

John Connolly, Public Affairs Manager at ASH, said

“It’s worrying that eight of these websites have taken credit card details and not given anything in return. Smokers are giving these details to someone they don’t know who then acts suspiciously by not sending the cigarettes. This could just be a device for collecting credit card numbers for use in fraud later.  We are monitoring our credit card bills for signs of irregular payments.

“This survey shows that websites claiming to offer cheap cigarettes just can’t be trusted. Some of the claims made by these websites seem too good to be true ­ cigarettes at less than half the UK price. Smokers will get a nasty surprise if they try to hold the websites to these claims. Most orders just never arrive, other sites take your money but don’t deliver. Even if by some miracle you do receive your cigarettes, they might end up costing double what you’d thought. “

“Our advice to smokers is to steer clear of these sites. If you want to save money on cigarettes, the best way to do it is by quitting. A 20-a-day smoker will save over £1500 a year by giving up, and now you can even get gum and patches to help you on the NHS.”


Notes to Editors:

[1] The full text of the ASH survey is available on the ASH website at (pdf)

[2] Customs and Excise rules governing internet cigarette sales are available at



John Connolly, ASH  020 7739 5902 (office)  or 02077354327 (Home)

Clive Bates, ASH.   020 7739 5902  or 077 6879 1237 (mobile)

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