Blitz on illegal tobacco trade

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Ten shops in the district were caught selling illegal tobacco products in an undercover sting.

Counterfeit tobacco and smuggled cigarettes were found in a test purchasing operation by cigarette company Japan Tobacco International (JTI).

And the shops were found to be selling illicit tobacco products, according to JTI.

Mark Yexley, JTI’s media relations manager, said: “The impact of the illicit trade in tobacco on society is far reaching and members of the public, retailers, suppliers and the government all have a role to play to combat the issue.

“Criminals who deal in illegal tobacco will sell to all-comers, including children.

“JTI fully supports any efforts to rid our streets of illegal tobacco and stop criminals infiltrating our communities.”

Previous tests on counterfeit tobacco products have found them to contain rat droppings, dead flies and even human excrement.

Shopkeepers have been warned they face fines and bans on selling tobacco if caught selling counterfeits.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards said it had been carrying out its own blitz on the illegal trade and seized more than 200kg of illicit hand-rolling tobacco with a street value of almost £15,000.

Trading Standards divisional manager David Lodge said: “We have particular concerns about illicit cigarettes as it really undermines peoples efforts to stop smoking.

“Most users of illicit cigarettes including those underage say they would quit if they had to buy cigarettes at the full price, this is why they have such a negative effect on public health.

“Yorkshire and Humber has one of the highest rates of smoking in the country and we intend to play our part in helping to reduce this.

“We adopt a zero tolerance approach to illegal sales and particularly where sales to children are involved.”

There were 16 legal investigations ongoing and three criminal prosecutions pending into illicit tobacco, Trading Standards said.

HM Revenue and Customs said the market in illicit cigarettes had been halved since 2000.

In the last two years, almost 3.3bn illicit cigarettes and more than 800 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco were seized in the UK, resulting in 593 prosecutions.

Shopkeepers can lose their lotto terminal, be fined up to £5,000, have vehicles seized and be banned from selling tobacco for up to six months.

What’s illegal?

Counterfeit tobacco: A copy of a brand, made without the brand holder’s consent.

Illicit whites: Cigarettes produced entirely independently of the International Tobacco Manufacturers, effectively manufactured specifically for smuggling.

How to spot illicit tobacco and cigarettes

Some of the giveaway signs:

Unrecognisable names – Jin Ling, Raquel, Gold Classic, Richman, Capital, Camelford.

Foreign language health warnings.

An unusual taste or smell.

Unusually cheap prices

Spelling mistakes or poor quality packaging.