Wrapped in cellophane, the cheap packets of Regal and Silk Cut cigarettes carry HM Government's official health warning and look like the real thing. They should, however, carry a second warning: Counterfeited in China.
Every year, billions of these highly toxic cigarettes - which have no connection with genuine Regal or Silk Cut products - are bought from shady middlemen by British smokers who believe that all they are doing is cheating the taxman of his cut. The reality is that they are smoking cigarettes produced not in hygienic factories in the West, but in scruffy little workshops in China, and what they are smoking is very often the sweepings of a dirty floor.
Wiry workers chopped rough-cut tobacco leaves on the ground, mixing them with sawdust and dirt before shovelling them into the machine. Other men, evidently more senior and significantly more portly, measured out white powders and red liquids from containers of chemicals, adding them to the heaps of tobacco.
Once packaged and boxed, the cigarettes leave on a truck at dusk. From here it's a six-hour haul to a warehouse in the port of Xiamen, from where they will be dispatched abroad. Within three weeks, they will be on sale in Britain to smokers who will think they are getting a genuine, duty-free bargain.
The Chinese counterfeits contain high levels of tar, nicotine and banned chemicals: a powerful, carcinogenic cocktail. "Counterfeit cigarettes are made with very poor quality and dangerous ingredients,"
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