Warning to dodgy cig sellers: You’ll lose your business
ROGUE shopkeepers tempted to sell illegal tobacco are being warned they could lose their livelihood.
North East businesses face more than a fine for selling smuggled or fake tobacco – they could also lose their alcohol licence and face huge tax bills from HMRC.
And those caught could also be closed down by local councils or the police for causing a commercial and health nuisance.
Figures show rogue shops are increasingly accountable for selling dodgy fags in the North East.
In 2009, shops were the main source for 1 in 20 illegal purchases, but by 2017 that had increased to one in four sales.
Private addresses, or tab houses, were still the main source for 46% of illegal tobacco buyers.
Fresh is now launching its Keep It Out campaign to encourage North Easterners to report sales of illegal tobacco, claiming it helps get children hooked on smoking.
All people need to do is visit keep-it-out.co.uk to tell trading standards anonymously – and around 540 people have already made a report in the North East since last October.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of Fresh, said: “The trade in smuggled and fake tobacco is linked to organised crime and enables kids to smoke.
“Most people do not want it in their local community and it is great to see more and more people giving information to help keep it out.
“The vast majority of shopkeepers are honest and are appalled by the sale of illegal tobacco.
“However, the law is catching up with the dishonest few who think they can get away with it.”
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives local authorities and police powers to issue closures notices for premises found selling illegal tobacco, and they can also apply to courts for closure orders for up to three months.
Middlesbrough Council’s Public Protection Service say they take their role in tackling the supply of illicit tobacco in the town serious- ly, and officers regularly receive intelligence about where illicit tobacco is being sold from.
In the last two years, the council has:
Received more than 150 pieces of intelligence about illicit tobacco sales
Carried out 21 seizures with 133,379 cigarettes and 86.79kg of hand rolled tobacco recovered.
Led 10 prosecutions resulting in fines and community orders.
Closed six premises for minimum of three months.
And action taken by HMRC against people supplying illicit tobacco in Middlesbrough and resulted in eight people being sent to prison for a total of 26 years.
Coun Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for adult social care and public health, said: “We are serious about a tackling the sale of illicit tobacco in Middlesbrough.
“We want our communities to be safe and illicit tobacco brings wider, serious crime issues into our neighbourhoods.
“Our message to the Middlesbrough public is very clear – illicit tobacco may be cheap but it costs your local community by bringing in other wider organised criminal activity which you do not want in your neighbourhood.
“Our message to those who are supplying or selling the tobacco is also clear – we are regularly given the names of shops selling illicit tobacco and we have a list of those we will be targeting in our next operation.”
Anyone with information about houses, shops or pubs selling illegal tobacco can call the illegal tobacco hotline at 0300 999 00 00. Hidden cigarettes discovered during a raid in Middlesbrough last year