Herefordshire Council’s trading standards team in partnership with West Mercia Police has carried out further raids on illicit tobacco sellers in Hereford and Ross-on-Wye.
Following a number of successful raids in February, the team carried out further raids this month and seized a considerable quantity of non UK duty paid illegal cigarettes and tobacco, consisting of a mixture of counterfeit, smuggled and bootlegged products, all of which carried foreign labelling. The total haul comprised of approximately 49,000 illegal cigarettes and 15kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco, with a street value in the region of £10,000.
The shops raided used sophisticated and ingenious hiding places for the storage of the illicit tobacco, including secret compartments hidden within the walls which were covered by cupboards which could only be opened through an electric switch linked to strong magnets.
Mike Pigrem, Herefordshire Council’s head of trading standards and licensing, said: “The sale of illicit tobacco with foreign labelling breaches consumer safety regulations, which require pictorial and English health warnings. Additionally, much of the tobacco and cigarettes found for sale were in fact, unbeknown to customers, either counterfeit or fabricated brands, manufactured with dubious quality control. Tobacco such as this is likely to cause worse health problems than the legitimate product. The effects on local business and the cost to the chancellor in lost tax revenues continue to grow with approximately £17,000 of duty being lost in this instance alone.”
Councillor Patricia Morgan, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The council’s trading standards team has again successfully raided a number of locations in the county to target the sale and supply of illicit tobacco. It is important for the council to continue working with the police to target illicit sellers and take appropriate enforcement action when necessary.
“It is not only people’s health which is being put at risk, but also local legitimate business which is being put at an economic disadvantage and incurring significant losses to their trade. The protection of people’s health and wellbeing together with supporting the local economy are two of the council’s key priorities.”
If anyone has information on people dealing in illegal tobacco products; please contact trading standards on 01432 261761.