Stark warning given to those who deal in fake fags after Didcot raid
The net is closing in on criminals who sell illegal tobacco via social media sites, such as Facebook, Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team has warned.
The warning follows the arrest of a Didcot man over Easter following a raid at his home address by Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police – leading to the seizure of over 15,000 suspected counterfeit cigarettes.
Tobacco fraud is reported to cost the UK around £2.5 billion a year whilst treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion annually. Those selling fake cigarettes face unlimited fines and can be jailed for up to 10 years.
Jody Kerman, Trading Standards Operation Manager at Oxfordshire County Council said: “There is no such thing as a safe cigarette and the best decision anyone can make for their health is to stop smoking. Peddling counterfeit tobacco is a serious crime that not only robs the public purse of much needed revenue, but also poses a threat to health and is a real fire risk. Those involved in this type of illegality shouldn’t believe that because they are not selling from a shop, we won’t catch them. We absolutely will.”
Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk
The harm of illegal tobacco
Health: young people can access cheap cigarettes because sales are unregulated, so they make it easier for children to take up the habit. In addition, fake products have been found to contain high levels of contaminants eg up to six times the level of lead and three times the level of arsenic found in ordinary cigarettes
Cost: tobacco smuggling costs the government more than £2.5 billion a year in lost revenue. Reducing the illegal market would mean more money being paid to the government and less tax needing to be raised by other means.
Crime: similar to drug dealing the distribution of cheap, smuggled and fake tobacco products increases the instances of criminality and nuisance in communities and neighbourhoods.
Safety: all legal cigarettes are manufactured to meet an EU reduced ignition propensity (RIP) requirement. This means they are designed to be self-extinguishable when not being actively drawn upon, to reduce the chance that they should set fire to sofas, beds and other combustible materials. Counterfeit cigarettes are highly unlikely to be self-extinguishable and have been attributed to a number of house fires and deaths.