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More illegal cigarettes seized during multi-agency operation

Trading Standards

23 November 2021

Piles of illegal cigarettes and tobacco

Thousands more packets of illegal cigarettes have been seized from shops in Northampton after being sniffed out by tobacco detection dogs.

The operation took place as part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

Officers from West Northamptonshire Council’s (WNC) Trading Standards team seized 1,178 packets from one shop, and 1,181 from another. They also uncovered 7kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco.

Tobacco in the UK must be sold in plain packaging, but Trading Standards are seeing counterfeit plain packaged tobacco entering the market, as well as more colourful packaging intended for non-UK markets.

The sale of illicit tobacco products hits taxpayers, as duty is not paid. Some counterfeit tobacco products have also been found to contain rat faeces, sawdust, lead, arsenic and even dust swept up from floors in the factories where they are produced.

The multi-agency operation was led by HMRC and also involved Northamptonshire Police and the Home Office.

It follows a similar crackdown in the town in September which led to the seizure of more than 3,500 packets of illegal cigarettes.

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

Cllr David Smith, WNC's Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Engagement, and regulatory services, said: “The import and sale of illegal tobacco causes serious harm in our communities and is certainly not the victimless crime that some people seem to think.

“This latest operation underlines our ongoing commitment to tackling this issue and should serve to reinforce our message that we will continue to take action against those who deal in illegal tobacco."

Wendy Martin, the Director of National Trading Standards, said: “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."

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