Birmingham, England - In a tale that seems straight out of television, investigators working on the behalf of tobacco companies have found that many of the cigarettes sold are not only illegal but also contain an alarming amount of toxins and other dangerous materials.
Human excrement and asbestos are among some of the most disgusting offenders found by investigators from the Swiss company MS Intelligence. Further, of the discarded cigarette packages analyzed, nearly one third have an illegal background, having been brought into the country on the black market.
The focus of the investigators' work was in Birmingham. Also, from previous studies conducted in England on the highly lucrative cigarette trade found that many are smoking “counterfeit” cigarettes. These fake cigarettes have been found to contain not only human excrement and asbestos but mold and dead flies.
For some experts, the discoveries made by the MS Intelligence investigative team point to a dangerous trend: black market importation of poor quality cigarettes sold at incredibly high profit margins. At this point, spotting and cracking down on the black market and counterfeit cigarette trade poses a considerable challenge to authorities.
Among the more disturbing materials found in these cigarettes is asbestos, a known carcinogen. Most industrialized and western countries including England, Australia and the United States have banned the mining, production, importation and exportation of asbestos for many years. Asbestos is still commonly used in many developing countries because it is inexpensive, durable and versatile.
Some of the counterfeit cigarette packages found were from China, a country that still uses asbestos in manufacturing. In some cases, these fake cigarette packages were indiscernible from the originals.
Exposure to asbestos leads to diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Typically, asbestos exposure is the result of work performed on older buildings, ships and some vehicles. Finding asbestos in cigarettes – something that is actively and deliberately inhaled – is shocking.
From the investigative operation, it has become clear to authorities that the black market cigarette trade has transitioned from importing name-brand cigarettes to manufacturing fake cigarettes to mimic the same name-brand companies.