Trading Standards team continues to crack down on illegal tobacco
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Trading Standards officers are extending their fight against shops selling illegal tobacco products in Southend, through a campaign of increased inspections and enforcement visits.
This action to date is leading to higher numbers of seizures and more frequent prosecutions being compiled against traders. Together with Essex Police, Trading Standards is committed to stamping out the supply of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.
Testing of the products seized by Trading Standards has revealed that a large quantity of the cigarettes had a heightened fire risk. These cigarettes failed safety standards applied to all genuine cigarettes, which are manufactured with a reduced ignition propensity. This is a safety feature built into cigarettes to prevent or reduce the occurrence of house fires, where a cigarette is left alight on furniture.
A recent study by KPMG found that sales of illegal tobacco products cost the UK Treasury nearly 2 billion pounds in 2016. Additionally, many of these products are manufactured using poor quality tobacco and may contain highly toxic products such as asbestos and rat poison. The production and sale of counterfeit cigarettes is linked to large-scale organised crime, diverting billions of pounds in unpaid duty away from public services such as the NHS and often into the pockets of crime bosses.
While consumers are lured by the lower prices of these inferior products, they may be unaware of the acute dangers of smoking them. During a recent smoking awareness event in Southend High Street hosted by Trading Standards, people who admitted buying the cheap cigarettes and tobacco had little or no idea of the heightened risks posed by smoking these illegal products. The lower prices are also encouraging underage smoking.
Cllr Tony Cox Executive Councillor for Transport, Waste & Regulatory Services said: “The campaign against these businesses who are deliberately flouting the law will not relent. “Traders who have attempted elaborate ways of concealing their stock have been foiled by enforcement officers employing more sophisticated detection methods.”
“Shops that continue to sell illegal products are committing a criminal offence and will be vigorously pursued and prosecuted. If a trader is found guilty, they will face large fines or even custodial sentences.”
Trading Standards urges members of the public who would like to share information about illegal supplies of cigarettes and tobacco, to call them confidentially on 03456 04 05 06.