Illicit tobacco trade targeted in trading standards operation
Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards officers have seized large quantities of illegal tobacco from shops in Gloucester and Cheltenham that has a legal price tag of £23,866.
n intelligence led operation working alongside specialist tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK, Operation Henry involved officers targeting four shops in Gloucester and one in Cheltenham.
Operation Henry was a national plan and took place across the country.
Detection dogs discovered concealed stashes of tobacco at a number of premises, which are now the subject of legal investigation so cannot be named at this stage.
Eddie Coventry, head of trading standards, said: "People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others, especially children and young adults, to smoke.
"All tobacco is harmful but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes makes it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free.
"Our trading standards officers are working hard to keep these illegal products off the streets and are cracking down on the businesses and individuals that flout the law.
"Detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes in the most unlikely places and in addition to having their stock confiscated offenders could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison."
The seizure included 1,730 packs of 20 cigarettes, which equals 34,600 cigarette sticks and 557 pouches of 50g tobacco, the equivalent of 27.85 kg of tobacco, which cannot be legally sold in the UK.
Within this, 456 packs of 20 cigarettes and 39 pouches of tobacco are believed to be counterfeit.
At illegal prices, the seized goods are worth at least £10,203, whilst if they were sold at legal prices would be worth at least £23,866. The duty to pay on the goods would have been at least £12,798.
Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: "We're committed to continuing our crack down on the sale of illegal tobacco in Gloucestershire.
"Premises selling illegal tobacco take trade away from local honest businesses and undermine our local economy.
"We'll always take action whenever we find illegal tobacco and cigarettes."
Cllr Andrew Gravells, cabinet member for public health, said: "Illegal cigarettes and tobacco can be even more harmful than legally sold products. Counterfeit tobacco will not have undergone any quality control, so we do not know what it contains, potentially making it even more dangerous to smoke."
Launched last year and supported by the Department of Health, Operation Henry was the first large scale coordinated trading standards investigation of its kind to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco.
It resulted in the seizure of more than 2.5 million cigarettes worth £614,488 with concealed tobacco products found in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture.
If anyone has information about illegal tobacco in their area then you can report it anonymously by contacting the citizens advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06, or via the link on the contact page of the trading standards website, http://glos.tradingstandards.uk.