A task force to combat the problem of counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes in Nottinghamshire has been set up by Nottinghamshire County Council.
The council is investing £91,000 of its public health funding to fund two trading standards officers and fund investigations to focus on reducing the supply and use of illegal tobacco locally.
Officers will work with the Council’s public health officers, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and other agencies to crackdown on sellers of illegal tobacco and encourage local residents to avoid smoking counterfeit products.
The team’s first operations involved raiding nine shops in Sutton, Hucknall, Mansfield, Stapleford and Netherfield along with two houses in Gedling and which uncovered around 90,000 illegal cigarettes and 20kg of illegal tobacco with an estimated street value of £40,000.
The haul is currently being investigated but is believed to be a mixture of counterfeit and untaxed items.
CounGlynn Gilfoyle, chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Safety Committee, said: “The national market for illegal tobacco has nationally halved in the last decade with nine percent of cigarettes being found illegal in 2012/13 compared to 21 percent in 2000/01.
“Tackling the sale of illegal tobacco has been priority for the Council and we have set up a dedicated team to focus our efforts on this persistent problem.
“The Council receives a great deal of information from local people on shops and individuals suspected of selling illicit tobacco products which helps us to target our enforcement work.
“Children and young people are often targeted by sellers of counterfeit cigarettes and illegal tobacco has strong links with organised crime so we will come down hard on those caught selling these goods.”
Cheap illegal tobacco products conflict with the Government’s national strategy to limit demand by keeping the price of tobacco high and make it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.
It is estimated that duty was not paid on around nine percent of cigarettes and around 38 percent of hand-rolling tobacco smoked in the UK in 2010-11, depriving vital public services of an estimated revenue of £1.86 billion.
Anyone with information about people selling counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes in their area should call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06. People can also ring Crimestoppers anonymously. www.crimestoppers-uk.org.uk 0800 555 111.