Dodgy shopkeepers change their tactics on illegal tobacco

A photograph of illicit cigarettes seized by Trading Standards
A photograph of illicit cigarettes seized by Trading Standards

Thousands of cigarettes have been seized after council officers swooped on a van in a Newcastle street.

The haul worth £12,000 was inside the vehicle just yards from a shop where trading standards had searched the day before.

It’s believed that shopkeepers who sell illegal tobacco are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods to avoid detection, but trading standards are aware of this and adapting their tactics too.

Cabinet Member for Regulation, Cllr Nick Kemp, said: “I’d like to congratulate our officers for seizing this sizeable haul of illegal tobacco.

“We are aware that some shopkeepers who sell illegal tobacco are no longer stocking it on their premises to avoid detection when we call.

“They are storing them in vehicles not far from their premises and taking out small amounts when customers call. We are aware of this and adapting our tactics accordingly.

“We will not hesitate to prosecute shop owners who sell illegal tobacco. All tobacco is harmful to public health but this kind is particularly pernicious as it’s more likely to be sold to children and hits legitimate businesses who pay duty on tobacco.”

The haul of 12,000 cigarettes includes 3kg of hand-rolled tobacco showing signs of mould.

More than 30 brands were seized – one of the most diverse hauls ever recovered – including Rothmans, Marlboro, Benson and Hedges and new brands Em@il, Regina and Hilton Lilac.

This is the latest in a series of seizures of illegal tobacco from shops in Newcastle so far this year. Previous hauls included 60,000 cigarettes from Eastern Europe and 5,000 cigarettes from a shop and Chinese restaurant.

Five packs of Shisha tobacco were also recovered in the most recent operation.

All tobacco will eventually be destroyed by being put through a shredder.