Call for help in illegal tobacco fight in Warwickshire - The Leamington Observer

Call for help in illegal tobacco fight in Warwickshire

PEOPLE are being urged to help the fight against the sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco in Warwickshire.

Trading standards officers in the county have seized thousands of pounds of counterfeit and smuggled tobacco products in the past year. They have also brought a number of successful prosecutions.

And Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards is appealing to residents and businesses to help them tackle the organised criminal gangs responsible for distributing and selling illegal tobacco by reporting them in confidence by calling 0300 303 2636.

County community spokesman Coun Andy Crump said: “Far from being a victimless crime, the trade in illegal tobacco creates a cheap source for children and young people.

“Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, undermines government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking.

“The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS. It’s important that anyone suspicious of tobacco crime should get in touch.’’

Traders use sophisticated methods to hide product including electronic magnets, hydraulic compartments in floors and cavity wall compartments – all difficult to detect without specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.

Nearly £1.3million worth of illegal cigarettes and tobacco was seized across the wider West Midlands region, worth more than £3.3million if they had been genuine UK duty paid goods.

The sale of illegal tobacco has strong links to other criminal activity including money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism.

Illegal tobacco products are easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often with foreign writing on them and not in standard packaging.

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