Illicit Tobacco Products Seized in South Tyneside
The fight to get illegal tobacco off South Tyneside streets continues with the latest seizure seeing thousands of illicit cigarettes and tobacco products confiscated.
South Tyneside Council's Trading Standards officers seized the haul, uncovering 24,295 cigarettes, 11kg of hand rolling tobacco products, 64 over-sized disposable e-cigarettes and shisha products, from shops in co-ordinated raids across the Borough.
Supported by Northumbria Police, several premises and motor vehicles were targeted following intelligence provided by concerned members of the public that illegal products were being offered for sale.
Councillor Jim Foreman, Lead Member for Housing and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council, said: "The sale of illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime. In fact, the impact of this is far reaching.
"Unfortunately, illicit tobacco which includes counterfeit tobacco, non-UK duty paid tobacco and 'cheap white' cigarettes, encourages smokers to smoke for longer. It breaks down their willpower to quit, not to mention the negative impact it has on legitimate traders who operate within the law, and the money it deprives from vital public services.
"What is extremely concerning is that dealers often target children and young people, encouraging them to start smoking. This puts them at risk of developing a harmful addiction as well as the multitude of serious long-term health problems that smoking can cause.
"Those who sell illegal tobacco simply don't care who is buying it, which is why it is crucial we stop this activity in our communities.
"We thank the public for their support and providing vital intelligence to assist with these seizures. It shows that people are less prepared to turn a blind eye to this sort of practice. We hope this support continues and we will take enforcement action wherever necessary."
From 20 July 2023, new sanctions came into force meaning businesses and individuals selling illicit tobacco could receive a penalty of up to £10,000.
Trading Standards officers now have the power to refer cases to HMRC for further investigation where businesses or individuals have been found to sell illicit tobacco.
Investigations into the local businesses concerned are ongoing.
Chief Inspector Neil Hall, of Northumbria Police, said: "We carry out a number of joint operations and activity to take illegal goods off the streets. Some people may think that selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco is a victimless crime, but quite often these goods can be a product of organised crime in the community.
"Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to then continue to fund illicit activities.
"As a Force, we are committed to pursing criminals and protecting our communities as part of Operation Sentinel, which is our collaborative approach to tackling serious and organised crime.
"Please be assured that we will continue to work with all our partners to prevent and disrupt these groups."
The raids were part of Operation CeCe, a joint HMRC and National Trading Standards partnership which has been working to seize illicit tobacco since January 2021.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: "The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.
"Having removed 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg or hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg or shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade."
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco in the Borough can report it anonymously to the Keep It Out hotline on 0300 999 0000 or via the online reporting form at www.keep-it-out.co.uk