-Some Tips On Avoiding Counterfeit Smokes & Tobacco BY SBC
As Smoking Hot has said many many times: His Blog is NOT about smuggling and seeks neither to promote nor condone criminal behaviour. The fact that the government forces people into the arms of the White Van Men does not excuse smuggling. Save up, beg or borrow some money and shop abroad LEGALLY.
That said however most of us probably DO have recourse to the Black Market at some point-if only to fill the gaps between trips (Hey Mr Chancellor, you do realize the more people can bring back “without let or hindrance” then the less they’ll buy smuggled goods, don’t you?).
And even those with delusions of honesty, who still have more money than sense and buy at Mr Patells, are increasingly likely to find themselves buying counterfeits. About the only place you can be sure of getting the Real Thing these days is at big name supermarkets.
That said a lot of fakes are very smokeable and the only real difference is that they use lower grade tobaccos (often with higher nicotine contents etc). Its very rare these days to find fakes that aren’t actually made from 100% tobacco...although there are still some I’m sure but the counterfeiters learnt long ago that killing off your customers is not a sound business strategy.
I have even encountered one brand of Chinese ciggies where the fake was better tasting than the original and both were made in the same factory! Go figure.
Last night before going to bed I opened a fresh pack of GV and rolled, as is my want, a couple for first thing in the morning cos when I wake up I’m not even Cro-Magnon let alone Neanderthal.
This morning then I stagger out of bed, spark up and suddenly my head starts spinning, cold sweat drips off my forehead and I have a feeling like I need to decide whether to pass out, throw up or simply die on the spot.
Toxic shock reaction maybe? After a night’s sleep the nicotine levels in your body have dropped and then the higher nicotine content in the ‘fake’ tobacco can simply be too much. The first smoke of the day makes a lot of people feel slightly light headed, this was just too much of a good thing I guess.
So once the room had stopped turning on its axis I checked the tobacco packet....and then all the packets I had in the cupboard.
Can you spot which is fake?
[The top one is the genuine]
The ONLY visible difference was the lack of serial number (almost impossible to photograph so I won’t).
Now the smuggler I use prides himself on the quality of his produce, which he transports himself from Spain. So this morning I went to see him to remonstrate. He was rightly shocked and we sat down to work out how it happened. He even showed me the receipts! Turns out one of his ‘bods’ had decided to use a little initiative and skim off the top by selling fakes.
There is no honour among...
So how DO you spot fakes?
Here my top tips:
The price is probably the single easiest and most reliable guide. Tell me what it will cost and I’ll tell you whether or not its kosher.
Tobacco costs £4-5 in the Benelux, depending on brand. If someone is offering you GV with a BNL tax stamp at 5 quid a pack then it is FAKE. Smugglers may be heroes to many of us but it is a business not a charity. There is no way even someone who is smuggling it in by the truck and trailer load can afford to sell it at just 50p above cost.
Small time hobby smugglers (ie your ‘mate’ down the pub) might knock it out at about £6.50 a pouch but a more realistic price is £7-8.
Know your European prices, check the tax stamp and do the math. The only people who can offer ‘Dutch’ GV at £5 a pouch are counterfeiters.
ATM I’m paying £8.50 a pouch for genuine Spanish GV or £8 for a ‘Half Shag’ brand like Samson/Drum etc.
Same applies to Straights. A pack of premium smokes may cost a couple of quid in the old East Block but any smuggler is going to want to make at least a £1 profit on it. So ciggies that are supposed come from Bulgaria at £2.50 a pack are probably fake. Same with those ‘Duty Free’ labelled packs. Less than £3.50 for a pack of Marlboro? Dream on. Even packs from Outer Backwardstan or Nigeria cost at least £3 a pack after the cost of shipping.
The Fakers have gotten so good that it is almost impossible to tell a fake just by looking. Even Customs Officers can’t always tell. More so because, in most buying situations, you can’t really hold up the pack to the light and look at it.
The key to telling a fake pack is by FEEL. You see, printing the packets professionally is fairly cheap. Once you’ve worked out the exact ink shade etc then you can run thousands of sheets very quickly and cheaply...especially when the person running the machine is a ten year old working for a bowl of rice.
What ISN’T cheap, quick nor easy, however, is E M B O S S I N G.
You think Marlboro cover their new 100s pack in raised micro dots to make it look ‘purdy’?
[think those dots are there to stop it slipping out of hand when drunk?]
Embossing is an art. I know because my very aged, supposedly retired, Father in Law still gets called in almost daily to the local printing works to do it for them because after about 1970 Germany stopped apprenticing Letter Press Printers. The tobacco print firms no doubt have their own specialist machines but for forgers things like embossing, stamping and perforating still mean using old ‘Heidelberg’ letter press machines and it takes years of practice to get each sheet to come out exactly right time after time. Same goes for those stamped in serial numbers; it’s a hella lot easier and quicker just to have to stamp in the same number on every sheet.
Go into the nearest supermarket and buy a pack of whatever brand and then compare it to the ones in the carton you bought off that bloke in the market. On really good fakes you’ll notice that they even print the bits, that are supposed to be raised but aren’t, in such a way as to suggest that they are indeed embossed.
Hand rolling tobacco tends to come in hi-gloss printed plastic pouches these days and firms like GV have spent a fortune designing their packs. Not only to ensure freshness but to make them difficult to forge. Nine times out of ten you can tell a fake pouch simply by rubbing a genuine one between your fingers first and then testing the fake one. Dose the plastic feel right? Does it have the right thickness? Does the plastic smell off/chemically?
My own experience this morning is the exception that proves the rule. The fake pouch pictured above feels & looks EXACTLY right. Some counterfeiter has seriously upped their game.
Aside from that, printing on plastic is a bitch. Are all the letters ‘sharp’ or do they look like they had a close encounter with a washing machine?
Tobacco firms DO adapt their recipes for different regions but we’re talking, on the whole, about minimal changes. Yes an American Marlboro does taste slightly different to a European one but they are both still instantly recognizable as a Marlboro.
Chances are that if it doesn’t taste quite right then it isn’t quite right. Too many people try and ignore it or tell themselves that ‘oh it’s a polish Marlboro, it probably tastes different’. Such self delusion is understandable, no one wants to have wasted £35-45 on a whole carton of fakes and only the really professional smugglers give refunds (no joke, some really do!).
*Serial Numbers & Tax Stamps
As with embossing, printing or stamping in serial numbers or tax stamp numbers in series is a pain and not worth the fakers time.
Most of you probably remember the recent ‘SHOCK! HORROR! SMOKERS ARE CRIMINALS AND SMUGGLERS ARE RAPING OUR LIVESTOCK AND STEALING OUR WIVES’ TV *cough* ‘report’ *Cough* where they showed whole sheets of BNL tax stamps where each stamp had the very same number.
It is tricky because every manufacturer does it differently but AFAIK each and every pack should have a serial number. Same goes for most tax stamps, again AFAIK.
Did you know that most tobacco firms are, in my experience, happy to tell you down the phone whether or not a serial number is kosher? A polite “Hi, I don’t know if you can help me but I was given a couple packets of Morleys by a friend and they seem to taste funny. Could you tell me if the serial numbers are genuine?” works well.
Is the price asked realistic?
Are the embossed bits embossed?
Does it taste right?
Only buy one pack/pouch to start with and have a genuine one to compare to. That’s about the only way to really stay safe.
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