Millions of counterfeit cigarettes have been discovered in Bradford
WEST Yorkshire Trading Standards has seized its 10 millionth illicit cigarette – and three million of those cigarettes were found in Bradford.
The seizures come as shop keepers resort to increasingly inventive ways to hide their counterfeit stash – from hydraulic ceiling tiles to hidden chutes.
Trading Standards regularly carries out operations to check if retailers are selling counterfeit cigarettes, and this week an operation in Huddersfield led to the organisation seizing its 10 millionth cigarette.
With three million illicit cigarettes found during operations in Bradford, the district is the area of West Yorkshire that has seen most seizures.
Three tonnes of hand rolling tobacco has also been seized since Trading Standards began its operations.
The Huddersfield operation saw contraband found in three vehicles, in a hydraulic ceiling concealment and a wall hide.
A spokesman for Trading Standards said: “The concealments show the lengths traders will go to in order to hide their illegal activities.”
More inspections planned in the coming weeks.
In the past year there have been a number of cases brought to court where judges and magistrates have heard of the various different ways Bradford shopkeepers have converted their stores to hide illegal cigarettes.
In one case a chute linked a shop till to an upstairs attic room containing thousands of contraband cigarettes.
And another case involved a remote controlled hydraulic chamber that lowered to reveal a stash of counterfeit cigs.
In many cases courts are told how regular shoppers were fully aware of stores that sold “cheap” cigarettes – which can be up to half the price of legal cigarettes.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards said if all of the seized tobacco products were genuine, based on today’s prices, they would have cost around £8 million.
This would have resulted in a loss of duty for the country of more than £4.5 million.
A number of public health projects, including stop smoking schemes, are funded by the duty raised from the sale of cigarettes.
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Trading Standards said: “With cash-strapped local authorities and the cost-of-living crisis, this could have gone a long way to helping local communities.
“The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, funded by the five Public Health departments, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating communities and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco.
"The initiative uses multi-agency enforcement and community marketing campaigns to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.
“Smoking tobacco is harmful to your health and the health of others around you, not to mention the environment and your bank balance.
“None of these facts are disputed, however many do still find themselves smoking as they haven’t been motivated enough or felt that they had the right level of will-power to quit.
The programme has worked with more than 8,000 members of the community and a wide range of professionals to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco whilst also working with partners to revoke alcohol licenses, apply for closure orders of businesses and dealt with sales of illicit tobacco products to children.
Linda Davis, Trading Standards Manager, said “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal trade in tobacco costs government billions each year in lost revenue, makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime.
“Members of the public should recognise the adverse health, economic and social impacts of the illicit trade of tobacco products, including the linkages with human trafficking and a wide range of organised crimes.
"With continued support from public health and partners, we can achieve a smoke free England by 2030.”
Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “The illegal sale of tobacco in communities enables and encourages young children to buy it cheaply.
"Highlighting the health and financial benefits of quitting tobacco use as well as tackling those that undermine it by supplying cheap and illicit tobacco is a brilliant and proactive way of spreading the message of the harms of cheap and illicit tobacco.”
If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 0808 223 1133 anonymously.
Anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/