As part of a continuing operation to stub out the trade in illegal tobacco, Sheffield Trading Standards has confiscated more than 50,000 cigarettes from a local motor garage.
Working with the police and their partners in public health, Trading Standards investigate, identify and prevent the sale of counterfeit tobacco products as part of their commitment to the protection of the people of Sheffield.
Two warrants were executed last week by Trading Standards and South Yorkshire Police after an investigation led to suspicions that a motor garage situated close to the city centre was selling counterfeit tobacco. Officers found and seized just over 57,000 cigarettes and nearly 400 pouches of rolling tobacco, all of it illegal.
Two members of staff at the garage have been arrested and a third is being questioned.
Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said:
“Unauthorised products pose a serious health risk, particularly to children who are often more likely to buy these products.”
“This case is the biggest seizure we’ve seen in a long time, so I’m pleased that we have put a stop to these people who have no regard for the effect their illegal trade has on people’s health.”
Carried out in liaison with the recently created Fortify Group the raid included a broad range of local and national enforcement bodies working with Sheffield City Council.
PC Gareth Webb, lead on the operation for South Yorkshire Police said:
“Fortify is all about partners working together to tackle serious and organised crime. Counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco fuel organised criminality so this is a great example of what can be achieved.”
Priced on average at just £4.50 per pack, illegal cigarettes follow 1980’s pricing and are often sold as singles. This makes it easier for children to buy cigarettes with pocket money and become addicted to tobacco at a younger age.
Illicit tobacco also reduces the effectiveness of taxation and makes it harder for smokers to stop smoking. Every day in Sheffield there are 16 deaths from smoking and every day 5 children start smoking. Smoking is the main cause of illness and death in the city and disproportionately effects our poorest communities.
Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council, said:
“Illicit tobacco is typically smoked by people on low incomes making these inequalities worse. We are committed to supporting people out of tobacco addiction and a key part of our Tobacco Control Strategy is tackling the illicit market.”
“Trading Standards are doing an excellent job in ensuring we stamp out the availability of cheap and illegal tobacco in Sheffield. However we know there is more to do and we will continue to be relentless in our approach.”
“I would urge anyone considering buying from an illegal trader to think about the possible dangers and ask anyone who suspects or knows illegal sales are happening to report it so that we can put a stop to it.”
In the last year Trading Standards has seized 190,00 cigarettes, 116kg of loose tobacco and hundreds of thousands of illegal tobacco pouches. Offenders face prison sentences, fines, financial forfeiture, and premises involved can loose alcohol licences.
In the most recent case, Aro Rabaty of Abbeyfield Road, Sheffield appeared at Sheffield Magistrates court on 16 October and pleaded guilty to five offences relating to the sale of counterfeit and incorrectly labelled tobacco products from his shop in Darnall. Mr Rabaty was sentenced to a 12 month community order to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £480 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
If you suspect illegal tobacco sales are taking place you can report your concerns to Sheffield Trading Standards at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Consumer Direct on 03454 040506.