Herefordshire Council’s trading standards officers, in partnership with West Mercia Police carried out raids on three continental food shops in Hereford this week (5 February), seizing a mixture of counterfeit, smuggled and bootlegged products, all of which carried foreign labelling. The total haul comprised circa 100,000 illegal cigarettes and 8.5kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco having a street value of around £17,000.
The shops used ingenious hiding places for the tobacco products including using the inside of a door void, hiding them in the middle of crates of drink cans and one even built a false wall in the stock room hiding 75000 cigarettes behind it.
Head of trading standards and licensing, Mike Pigrem, said “The sale of illicit tobacco which has foreign labelling breaches safety regulations requiring pictorial and English health warnings. In addition much of the tobacco and cigarettes found for sale was, unbeknown to customers, either counterfeit or fabricated brands manufactured with dubious quality control. Such tobacco products can cause untold health problems, far worse than smoking legal tobacco. The effects on local business and the cost to the chancellor in lost tax revenue are huge with some £30,000 of duty being lost in this instance alone.”
Deputy leader and cabinet member Councillor Patricia Morgan, commented: “Herefordshire Council fully supports this crack down on the illegal tobacco trade in our county. People’s health is at risk and local legitimate business is put at an economic disadvantage incurring significant losses to their trade. Protecting people’s health and wellbeing and supporting the local economy are some of our key priorities.”
Anyone with information on people dealing in illegal tobacco products should contact trading standards on 01432 261761.