Chop chop (tobacco)

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Chop chop, also known as loose tobacco, is an Australian term for untaxed, cheap, illegal tobacco, such as that which is home grown. "Chop chop" avoids heavy excise and taxation levies and can be much cheaper than the legal product. The "chop chop" industry is illegal and unregulated.[1]

Health concerns[edit]

Chop Chop is sometimes viewed as being more healthy than normal, branded tobacco. However, research has suggested that it can contain contaminants such as twigs and pulp from raw cotton, hay, cabbage leaves, grass clippings and chloride products. One writer has suggested that mould and fungi are also commonly found in "chop-chop" samples.[1]

Another claim is that smoking "chop-chop" has the potential to cause greater illness, than branded tobacco and possible fatality in those who use it. This is claimed, largely, to the dense volume of fungal contamination that is usually found in samples of "chop-chop". These fungi can cause toxic responses in the lungs, liver, kidneys and skin. The illnesses may range from allergic reactions, chronic bronchitis and asthma to lung cancer or legionnaire’s disease.


Because of its illegal nature, Chop Chop is often transported and stored in a clandestine manner. A recent example was the discovery of hundreds of kilograms of Chop Chop in an underground bunker in Mareeba, Queensland. The bunker had a hydraulically operated steel trapdoor that was openable from the owner's bedroom.Officers claim it was an ingenious set up. The bunker was discovered when a taxation officer noticed that the bedroom's floor sounded hollow.[2]

Chop-chop can also find its way into the market via individuals or groups who purchase leaf directly from a tobacco grower, process it for sale, and provide it to a range of retailers (such as tobacconists, market stallholders, hairdressers, newsagents and milk bars) for on-selling. Chop-chop is usually sold in half or one kilogram lots, packed into clear plastic bags in loose leaf form.[3]

Origins of the term[edit]

The term "chop chop" was coined in the mid-1890s by staff at an Australian tobacco manufacturer, W.D. & H.O. Wills Australia Limited, endeavouring to combat the illegal trade. The term comes from the production process of the illegal producers - merely chopping up the cured tobacco leaves.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Renée Bittoun, December 2004, The Medical consequences of smoking "chop-chop" tobacco (PDF), hosted by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aging Web site. Accessed 15 July 2011
  2. ^ - Bunker Bust (also on Page 1 of The Cairns Post, August 30 - 2007)
  3. ^ Winstanley, Margaret (2008). 10.9.1 Chop-chop. Tobacco in Australia. Cancer Council Victoria. Retrieved 2010-07-23.