Crackdown on illegal tobacco sales in Derbyshire

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Derbyshire County Council is stepping up its work to clamp down on illegal tobacco sales, including to youngsters.

It will also reinforce anti-smoking messages with a new plan to target law-breaking shop owners called the ‘Enforcement Programme for Tobacco Products’.

Police and county council trading standards search teams have already carried out 18 joint raids this year, seizing almost 150,000 cigarettes and 118kg of loose tobacco with a combined street value of almost £44,000.

But the problem continues as reports from concerned members of the public have risen by 111 per cent in the same year.

The ‘Enforcement Programme for Tobacco Products’ sets out the council’s commitment to reduce smoking and stop the illicit tobacco trade.

It contains nine action points which include to:

* Provide relevant guidance to help traders stay on the right side of the law

* Carry out spot checks on retailers and run test purchase exercises using underage volunteers

* Visit shops to investigate and follow up complaints

* Take appropriate enforcement action wherever necessary.

Council trading standards officers work in partnership with police to target premises known to be selling counterfeit products or smuggled tobacco on which no duty paid has been paid, meaning illicit traders can still make a profit selling at knock-down prices.

This gives them an unfair advantage over legitimate businesses who sell legal tobacco which costs more because it is duty paid.

Police and county council trading standards search teams have already carried out 18 raids this year, seizing almost 150,000 cigarettes and 118kg of loose tobacco with a combined street value of almost £44,000. But the problem continues to grow as reports from concerned members of the public have risen by 111% in the same year.

Fourteen Derbyshire shops, where illegal sales have been reported, are currently under investigation. Two people have already been prosecuted for selling counterfeit and foreign labelled tobacco with other cases to follow.

The council’s new plan aims to tackle this problem – and join forces with public health colleagues to reinforce anti-smoking messages and clamp down on under-age tobacco sales.

Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “Illegal traders are exploiting the high price of cigarettes to make an unfair profit for themselves. They undermine one of the most effective deterrents against smoking, and that’s the high cost.

“All tobacco products are harmful and young people are particularly vulnerable. It should not be the case that children are turned away by legitimate traders only to be able to buy cigarettes down the road at a discount.”

The council has enlisted the help of volunteers aged under 18 to pose as customers, and recent figures highlight five shops that were ready to sell them tobacco products.

Each of these illegal sales to young people resulted in a letter of warnings to the businesses concerned. Two shop assistants were cautioned and a further three received letters of warning.

Councillor Allen added: “We’re committed to pursuing these ‘under the counter dealers’ and immoral shop owners who threaten the health of children and steal trade from our legitimate businesses.”