Shelf Life of Tobacco .... From the Horses Mouth ... the UKBA

Customer Service Improvement 
Freedom of Information Team
Lunar House 
40 Wellesley Road

##### ###########
[FOI #82453 email] 

01 September 2011
Dear ## ########

Thank you for your e-mail of 10 August 2011, in which you ask: the specific time
period for UKBA destroying tobacco goods? What specific shelf life do the UKBA
state tobacco products have?; and what factual documented evidence do the UKBA
base their specific shelf life period of tobacco products on.  Your request has been
handled as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We are now in a position to provide a full reply to your request.

Question 1: What is specific time period for UKBA destroying tobacco goods? 
Paragraph 2.15 of Notice 12A “What you can do if things are seized by HM Revenue
& Customs” explains when seized perishable goods will be destroyed:

How likely is it that HMRC will have disposed of the seized thing?

We will dispose of perishable goods (including tobacco and beer and all food
products) as quickly as possible.

The legislation allowing the destruction of goods is contained in Schedule 3,
paragraph 16(b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, which provides:

Where any thing has been seized as liable to forfeiture the Commissioners
may at any time if they see fit and not withstanding that the thing has not yet
been condemned, or is not yet deemed to have been condemned, as forfeited
- ... if the thing seized …is in the opinion of the Commissioners of a perishable
nature, sell or destroy it.

Questions 2 & 3: What specific shelf-life do the UKBA state tobacco products
have?  What factual documented evidence do UKBA base their specific shelf-
life period of tobacco products on? 

In 2003 HM Revenue & Customs were provided with a copy of a letter from Imperial
Tobacco Limited in which they advise:

The time that tobacco goods will remain in good condition varies according to
storage facilities, climatic conditions, difference in wrapping material used etc.

Tobacco goods should be kept at a cool, even temperature between 10C
(50F) and 13C (55F). they should be kept away from other goods which can
transmit taste and flavour, e.g. soap, firelighters.

The shelf life of the different packings of tobaccos from the date of
manufacture are as follows:-

Pouch and printed foil packings – up to twelve months
Tin packings – up to two years
Thermoform packings – up to two years.

The UKBA therefore consider that when remaining sealed in its original packaging
and stored under ideal conditions, pouches of tobacco remains fresh for up to twelve
months, and would 
expect tobacco to become dry / stale when kept for longer than
this when held in ordinary domestic conditions.

I hope that this information meets your requirements. I would like to assure you that
we have provided you with all relevant information that the Home Office holds. 

If you are dissatisfied with this response you may request an independent internal
review of our handling of your request by submitting a complaint within two months to
the address below, quoting reference 19630. If you ask for an internal review, it
would be helpful if you could say why you are dissatisfied with the response.

Information Access Team
Home Office
Ground Floor, Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
e-mail: [email address]  

As part of any internal review the Department's handling of your information request
will be reassessed by staff who were not involved in providing you with this response.
If you remain dissatisfied after this internal review, you would have a right of
complaint to the Information Commissioner as established by section 50 of the
Freedom of Information Act.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information Team
UK Border Agency


  1. Great to have this from UKBA themselves. l see the twats have had this since 2003!

  2. Copy of that is going straight into my SOT file....along with sentence directing to it, saying something a long the lines of "therefore as you yourself acknowledge [see app.] tobacco has a shelf life of 12 months the fact I am bringing back an amount in excess of the MIL can in no way be taken as 'proof' of Commerciality"

  3. Thats it SBC, its there own figures and NOT anyone elses.

    God, l love this FOI :)

  4. Excellent response that now corroborates Imperial Tobacco's response that I received last week:

    26 August 2011 16:42:33

    Thank you for your email through our corporate website.

    The quality of our products depends on the way they are stored and
    although there are no sell by dates on any of our products they are at
    their best for about half a year if kept in a cool place out of direct

    We would recommend that they are smoked within a maximum of a 12-month
    period of purchase.

    If you ever have any problems with the quality of the tobacco you
    purchase, please return it to the address on the pack so we can replace
    the product for you and investigate the cause of the problem.

    Kind regards
    Imperial Tobacco Ltd
    Head Office - Bristol, UK

  5. Did I read that right, HMRC consorted with the enemy and took advice from Imperial Tobacco? Does ASH know about this I wonder? Poor Debbie will be having palpitations.

  6. 2 issues alf :- Imperial Tobacco have back tracked somewhat and UKBA have cherry picked.

    From lmperial Tobacco circa 1999:-

    "This is a topical issue at the moment. I was recently asked by Customs& Excise to clarify our view of shelf life.
    I confirmed to them that all our tobacco products will remain in very good condition for 12 to 18 months provided they were kept in normal storage conditions. Normal storage conditions would exclude hot or very damp conditions. The period of time could be increased if they were kept in cold conditions e.g. a freezer. The condition of tobacco products is governed by the moisture content, but even if they became drier they could still be smoked, although they would taste harsher.
    Hand rolling tobacco and cigars for example can be easily reconditioned by exposing them to moisture, indeed there are commercial products available to recondition cigars. To recondition cigarettes however would be more difficult.
    In conclusion, it would be WRONG to suggest that tobacco products had a "shelf life" for the above reasons.
    I hope you find these comments helpful."

    Us Cross-Border Shoppers are truly alone!


"In the eyes of the Tribunal the review letter contained several preconceptions, prejudgments and non-sequiturs"

"the absurdity of this reason is demonstrated by simply stating it"

"We therefore find that Mr Sked misdirected himself as to the Policy in carrying out the review and his decision is therefore one that no reasonable review officer could have arrived at."

... commonly known here at N2D as 'Skeds' ... that is to say these are Judges comments regarding UKBA Review Officer Ian Sked's reasons for rejecting peoples appeals against seizures.

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