Mirror mirror on the wall, why are you hiding an illegal haul?
Trading standards officers found £1700 of illegal tobacco stashed behind a mirror in a shop in Cheltenham recently.
Officers recently visited a shop in Cheltenham to follow up on a previous test purchase where an undercover trading standards officer was able to purchase a pack of counterfeit cigarettes for £3.50.
Officers entered the shop just as a customer was waiting by the till and a member of staff was walking down stairs at the back of the shop with 2 packets of counterfeit cigarettes. On seeing the officers, he tried to run off, dropping the cigarettes as he did.
While talking to the officers he also tried to discard a piece of metal which would later turn out to be the “key” to the seizure of nearly £1700 worth of illegal tobacco.
Officers scoured the premises before discovering the purpose of the piece of metal. A mirror was found in the first floor toilet room which looked new and out of place.
Officers found that the piece of metal was used to lever the mirror away from the wall, which was held in place by an electromagnet.
Behind the mirror, officers found the £1700 haul of 215 packs of cigarettes and 91 pouches of hand rolling tobacco. Counterfeit versions of Richmond, Mayfair and Amber Leaf were found alongside, Richman, Marlboro Gold and Cutters Choice.
The electromagnet was mains powered and had clearly not been installed by a competent and qualified electrician. Trading Standards have notified the landlord of the defective electrics.
The shop’s shelves were sparsely stocked with a limited range of low value, long life goods masking the fact the shop is a front for the sale of illegal tobacco.
Cllr David Norman cabinet member responsible for trading standards said, “Once again this is a great result for our trading standards team. We’ve said it before, but we will not tolerate the sale of illegal tobacco in Gloucestershire.
"As well as posing a significant public health risk, the sale of counterfeit tobacco undercuts legitimate law abiding traders who are trying to compete.”
Anyone with information on the sale of illegal tobacco, however small or insignificant they might think it is, is encouraged to report it by calling 03454 040506 or anonymously via our website at https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/trading-standards/report
Gloucestershire Stop Smoking Service can be contacted on 0300 421 0040 or at www.stopsmokingglos.nhs.uk