From: BirminghamMail.net (UK)
by Neil Elkes
SIX out of 29 newsagents, petrol stations and convenience stores visited by Birmingham Trading Standards investigators were found to be selling illegally imported cigarettes and tobacco.
Officials, who used a hand-held computer scanning device to detect illegal tobacco or cigarettes, also found fake packs of rolling tobacco which is frequently stronger and often padded out with impurities, including rat droppings and sand.
While the price of a pack of cigarettes has reached £7.50, smokers can pick up imported packs on which no tax has been paid, for less than half that. The Treasury said it lost out on £2.2 billion-worth of duty due to the illicit trade.
Birmingham City Council’s public protection committee was told that 29 premises in Hodge Hill, Erdington, Lozels, Soho, Aston, Bartley Green and Selly Oak were visited and six, about 20 per cent, were found in possession of illicit tobacco.
Trading standards officer Chris Perry said: “In total 1,000 counterfeit and 810 non-duty paid cigarettes were seized from the outlets.
“The retailers in possession of the illicit tobacco, following investigation, were all given written warnings under the relevant legislation.”
Mr Perry said the figures were an improvement on tests carried out over a year ago, when a third of shops visited sold illicit tobacco.
Committee member Coun Mick Finnegan (Lab, Stockland Green), himself a former smoker, said: “We welcome this investigation.
“Cigarettes are dangerous enough, but counterfeit tobacco is even more so.
“It is so expensive to smoke that illegal imports are a massive problem.”
The committee had better news from an investigation into underage sales, where teenagers were sent into 25 shops to try to buy cigarettes and all of them were asked to prove their age.
It was the first time Birmingham Trading Standards had found 100 per cent compliance with the law.