Tuesday 25 October 2016

Illicit whites - the cheap cigarettes with insect eggs

Former garda Kevin Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke
Former garda Kevin Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke

They are known as "illicit whites" - cigarette brands that can only be bought on the black market.

With names like MG and Black Mount they are tobacco products that have no legitimate market anywhere in the world.

Instead they are manufactured in covert factories, free from any regulation, often funded by criminal gangs and paramilitaries.

While to the smoker they may represent the opportunity of saving some money, it has been found that the illicit whites could be even more dangerous than already dangerous regular cigarettes.

Studies have found that the illicit cigarettes contain more carcinogenic properties than regular ones.

Insect eggs and even human faeces have been discovered in some of the illicit white tobacco products. The American-based Centre for Public Integrity was one organisation that looked into the problem.


In a study called Tobacco Underground, the organisation highlighted some of the issues that should give anyone smoking illicit whites pause for thought.

"Many of the smokes are made from the lowest quality tobacco, full of stem and sawdust, and spiked with unusually high levels of nicotine. Tests reveal that counterfeit cigarettes carry a bevy of products that could further shorten even a heavy smoker's life: metals such as cadmium, pesticides, arsenic, rat poison and human faeces," the report said.

In some cases, they were found to contain 80pc more nicotine and 130pc more carbon monoxide than regular cigarettes.

Former garda detective chief superintendent Kevin Donohoe said that a major issue with regard to the cigarettes was that they were made in a completely unregulated environment.

"Cigarette manufacture is very heavily regulated, but obviously with these there is no regulation whatsoever.

"For example, cigarettes are required to have a self-extinguishing feature, so if you leave them for long enough they go out.

"This is for fire safety."

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