Illegal cigarettes and alcohol worth nearly £4,500 were seized by trading standards officers in a series of planned raids on seven retail premises across Birmingham yesterday (19 November 2015).
Teams of officers targeted shops and off licences in east Birmingham using two sniffer dogs, as part of a continued crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco and alcohol – products which have either been smuggled in, illegally produced or for which no duty has been paid.
Birmingham City Council’s trading standards officers, working with local police teams, made seizures at six premises, where they confiscated 622 packs of cigarettes, 100 pouches (50g) of tobacco, and 6kg of chewing tobacco.
Cigarettes were concealed in cupboards, hidden compartments and bags in an attempt to avoid detection. All products will be destroyed in due course.
Officers also seized 400 cans of beer and 40 bottles of spirits, which were found at unlicensed premises.
The illegal products seized included counterfeit and cheap foreign labelled products that breach consumer protection legislation and are also non-duty paid; these cannot be legally sold in the UK.
The contents of all cigarettes are harmful and contain around 4,000 different chemicals, including 60 known carcinogens.
Children and young smokers are often targeted by people selling illegal cigarettes, making it easier for them to get hooked on smoking – and cheap cigarettes also make it harder for people to stop and remain smoke free.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “These raids have successfully taken around £3,700 of illegal tobacco and £700 of illicit alcohol out of circulation, which we believe has strong links with wider criminal activity and brings crime into our neighbourhoods. This is why it’s so important to clamp down on it.
“Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children, to smoke by providing a cheap source. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime which also impacts on those businesses that are trading legally.
“Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products – recent prosecutions have resulted in significant fines and suspended jail sentences, that’s the cost they face for trading in illicit tobacco and alcohol.”
Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards Service continues to focus on intelligence-led inspections to stamp out the illegal supply, working with their partners in HMRC and West Midlands Police to focus their activities. It is clear that the intelligence in these cases was accurate as six out of the seven premises were found with illegal products. Investigations will continue and may result in legal action.
Birmingham citizens can help keep illegal tobacco out of their local area by contacting Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
Media contact: Emma Brady, Press and PR Officer, on 0121 303 6969 or email email@example.com