More than 24,000 illegal cigarettes seized during raids in South Tyneside
A series of co-ordinated raids have been carried out across South Tyneside in an effort to crack down on illegal tobacco.
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South Tyneside Council’s Trading Standards officers, along with support from Northumbria Police, have carried out a number of raids across the borough to keep illegal tobacco products off the streets.
The raids saw officers seize 24,295 cigarettes, 11kg of hand rolling tobacco products, 64 over-sized disposable e-cigarettes and shisha products.
Several premises and 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, has thanked the public for providing the information to allow the authorities to carry out the raids.
He 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.”
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Following the raids, investigations into the businesses selling the illegal tobacco products remain ongoing.
Chief Inspector Neil Hall, of Northumbria Police, added: “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.”
New sanctions came into force on July 20 meaning that 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.