Clampdown on rise in illegal tobacco sales

Trading standards are continuing to crackdown on the issue through a range of measures including spot checks and test purchases.

Illegal tobacco seizures have doubled in Dudley borough and trading standards bosses have vowed to continue to crackdown.

Dudley Council’s trading standards seized 78,000 illegal cigarettes and 519 packets of illegal tobacco last year in raids involving 10 shops. The haul had a street value of more than £16,000.

It doubled the amount confiscated from shops in 2015/16. Two prosecutions have already taken place with several more currently underway through the courts following visits by officers to 168 premises.

Trading standards are continuing to crackdown on the issue through a range of measures including spot checks and test purchases. Councillor Peter Miller, cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said:

“This is far from a victimless crime. Illegal tobacco trade creates a cheap source for children and young people. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, makes it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free. The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS.

“Our trading standards officers are doing some excellent work to clamp down on this issue and rest assured, anyone selling illegal products could face serious penalties through the courts.”

Nationally, over 5.5 million illegal cigarettes and 645kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized by local Trading Standards within the Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA).

The cigarettes and tobacco were seized in the last financial year (2016/2017) with a loss to the tax payer of over £2 million. The total retail value of the illegal goods is estimated to be worth in excess of £2.5 million.

All offending businesses are subject to a criminal investigation, with some traders already being successfully prosecuted. Some have received financial penalties, others, suspended prison sentences and community orders.    

In addition, some shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products. Bob Charnley, Chairman of CEnTSA added:

 ‘‘More and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to Trading Standards, to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco. Combating illegal tobacco has become an increasing priority for Trading Standards.

"The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with crime and criminal gangs, including drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime.”

Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to Trading Standards by calling the CEnTSA’s confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636.


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