Illicit cigarettes seized during Trading Standards operation

Trading Standards

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Examples of the the cigarettes seized and one of the sniffer dogs

More than 3,500 packets of illegal cigarettes were seized from shops in Northampton during a crackdown.

The illicit haul was sniffed out by tobacco detection dogs as part of a recent operation led by Trading Standards officers from West Northamptonshire Council.

The operation, which was supported by officers from the Council’s Environmental Health and Licensing team as well as Northamptonshire Police, saw 15 shops visited across Northampton.

A total of 1129 packets of illegal cigarettes were seized from one shop, while 2483 packets were seized from another. Packets of illegal hand rolling tobacco were also found at both shops.

All of the items were illegally imported into the UK without duty being paid and do not comply with the legal packaging and labelling requirements. A number of them are also suspected to be counterfeits of popular brands, which are likely to contain harmful substances and may not self-extinguish, presenting increased health and safety risks

The operation was held as part of a national disruption exercise funded by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Further investigations are now underway to decide what action should be taken against the shop owners.

The import and sale of illegal tobacco causes serious harm in our communities, undermining public health, facilitating the supply of tobacco to young people, and damaging legitimate businesses which are unable to compete. It also deprives the UK of vital revenue which could be used to fund essential public services.

The Trading Standards team at West Northamptonshire Council take a very tough stance on the issue, and regularly work with our partners to tackle the problem. I hope the results of this operation send a strong message that if shopkeepers deal in illegal tobacco, they should expect to be caught.
Cllr David Smith - Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Engagement, and Regulatory Services on West Northamptonshire Council

Illegal tobacco products harm individuals and communities in many ways. They:

  • Cost the UK over £2 billion in unpaid tax every year – money which should be going to fund vital services like schools and hospitals
  • Are sold at ‘pocket money prices’, encouraging children to start smoking
  • Help fund organised crime such as human trafficking and modern slavery
  • Cause honest retailers to suffer, as they cannot compete with illegal tobacco sellers
  • May pose an increased fire hazard, as they may not be made with fire safe paper
  • May contain harmful ingredients

People are urged to look for:

  • Packaging that is not plain olive green
  • A lack of health warnings
  • Text on the packet that is not in English
  • Cheap prices
  • Unknown brands
The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.Lord Toby Harris - Chair of the National Trading Standards Board

If you suspect someone is selling illegal tobacco in Northamptonshire, please report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.