Thousands of illegal cigarettes seized in Lowestoft raids

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Trading Standards has successfully targeted Lowestoft retailers in illegal tobacco raids, seizing 21,880 cigarettes and 10.9kg of rolling tobacco.

Illegal tobacco and cigarettes seizedThe raids, which took place in October, involved officers from Trading Standards and Suffolk Police who targeted four different premises in the town.

The cigarettes and tobacco failed a visual inspection as genuine products. Investigations into the seizures will continue and shop owners will face a formal interview.

It is illegal for anyone to supply and possess-for-supply such tobacco, be it smuggled, bootlegged or counterfeit.

Mary Strang, Principal Trading Standards Officer, said:

“This was a successful operation in our campaign to stop the sales of illegal tobacco in Suffolk and was a great example of working in partnership with Suffolk Police. We have disrupted the supply of such products in the area, but we know we must continue to clamp down. Illegal tobacco sales are often the tip of the iceberg to funding more serious, organised crime.

“In our line of work, if the price of something looks too good to be true, there’s usually a reason why. If you buy a packet of these illegal cigarettes, you have no way of knowing what you are smoking or the damage you are doing to yourself and others – potentially more so than regular cigarettes.”

With these cheap products on the market, it is easier for young people to become hooked on smoking and makes it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.

Another consideration of illegal cigarettes is the fire risk they often pose. When genuine cigarettes are left for a period of time, they are designed to self-extinguish, reducing the risk of fires starting if left unattended. This design became European law in 2011, but many illegal cigarettes do not self-extinguish, increasing the risk of accidental fires.

Councillor Richard Rout, Cabinet Member for Environment and Public Protection at Suffolk County Council, said:

“In the last twelve months, our Trading Standards team has led four successful prosecutions against those who have sold illegal tobacco. Sentences passed by the judge have seen total fines running into tens of thousands of pounds, alongside suspended prison sentences.

“It is an activity we simply will not tolerate, it has a negative impact on public health and honest businesses. If you buy or sell illegal tobacco, it is stealing from the taxpayer - it’s money that could be spent on important public services like schools and hospitals. We will continue to pursue traders of illegal tobacco.”

Legal tobacco is easy to spot, it should be in plain packaging, with safety warning pictures and any writing should be in English. Any packages that do not have the above will be illegal for sale.

You can anonymously report someone for selling illicit tobacco by calling the national Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.