Illegal cigarettes worth about £8,000 were seized by trading standards officers in a series of planned raids on eight retail premises across in the Erdington district today (15 February 2016).
Officers targeted shops and off licences in north Birmingham as part of a continued crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco – products which have either been smuggled in, illegally produced or for which no duty has been paid.
Birmingham City Council’s trading standards officers worked with local police teams, using two sniffer dogs – Yoyo and Scamp – provided by BWY Canine Specialist Search Dogs.
Seizures were made at seven out of the eight premises and officers confiscated a total of 1,065 packs of 20 (21,300 individual cigarettes): approximately 286 packs of cigarettes were taken from one business.
At one shop, cigarettes were concealed in the pockets of coats hanging in a back room and in a holdall in the boot of a car parked outside an attempt to avoid detection. All products will be destroyed in due course.
Additionally, 107 bottles of vodka suspected to have counterfeit labels were seized from two of the premises, 102 of which came from one shop alone with the remaining five from another. These will now be checked to establish whether they are legitimate products.
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 £8,000 of illegal tobacco 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.
“Seizures were made at seven premises and offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”
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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
The value of this seizure is calculated based on the figures below:
- 1,065 packs of 20 cigarettes (21,300 individual cigarettes) were seized.
- The average price of a pack of 20, sold at a genuine retail price, is £7.50 – but can be sold as cheaply as £5 a pack.
- Estimated value: £8,000.
In 2014/15, Birmingham City Council inspected 146 premises, of which 29 were found to be in breach. Officers seized a total of 239,700 cigarettes worth approximately £90,000 and confiscated 47kg of rolling tobacco, with an estimated value of £14,000.
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer, causing one in four deaths from cancer.
Overall 100,000 deaths are caused by tobacco each year in the UK.