Fact Check

Fake Cigarettes are Being Sold and Killing People

Reports of deadly fake cigarettes in counterfeit packs circulating in Detroit are fake news.

Published Nov 10, 2016

Counterfeit packs of fake cigarettes found in Detroit are lethal.

On 8 November 2016 the web site TMZBreaking published an article claiming potentially fatal "fake cigarettes" were being sold in Detroit, urging readers to be wary of "counterfeit packs":

We’ve all heard of knockoff designer handbags and fake sunglasses, but now some people in Detroit are coming to the realization that they may be purchasing fake brand-name cigarettes.

Scammers have recently been targeting those who have the already expensive habit by placing cheap cigarettes in name-brand cartridges, and gas stations are selling them at a discounted price.

“The taste was different and stale!” said one woman who believes the pack of Newports she bought from a gas station on Detroit’s west side is fake. The woman said the fake cartridges don’t have ridges, but the real ones do.

China is said to be flooding the world markets with cheap cigarettes packaged to look like the actual product consumers want to buy. But these cigarettes, experts say, can be far more harmful for your health.

Although counterfeit cigarettes have reported as a known problem (primarily outside the United States), contemporaneous news stories don't report the products as being deadly. Nevertheless, the claim about lethal fake smokes was passed on by readers who (by design on the part of the site's operators) confused he reporting site, TMZBreaking, with the well-known gossip site TMZ.

TMZBreaking, TMZWorldNews, TMZUncut and several similar fake news outlets use the sometimes salacious but usually accurate TMZ brand name to dupe readers into thinking articles are potentially credible. These impostor sites appropriated TMZ's name for the purpose of advancing fabricated claims, and none include a disclaimer warning readers their content consists solely of fake news.

Earlier fabrications from TMZ-lookalike sites included claims a police officer shot a black baby after mistaking a pacifier for a gun, a penile implant alerted women to cheating husbands and boyfriends, a college student was left in a coma after participating in a social media semen-drinking challenge, many KKK members committed suicide after the Harriet Tubman $20 bill was introduced, a non-existent study demonstrated that 80 percent of black men in Atlanta were gay, and police found a satanic dungeon under a Chuck E. Cheese.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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