Crackdown on illegal tobacco trade

AN INITIATIVE to rid the North West of illicit tobacco launches today, with a regional crackdown on the illegal trade which costs £2.5bn in lost revenue.

The initiative, part of the North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health programme, will co-ordinate a clean-up by HMRC, which seized around 60 million cigarettes and 15 tonnes of illegal tobacco in the region in 2008/09.

The operation will use shared intelligence, specially established Inland Detection Teams, and new equipment, such as hand-held scanners that can detect illegal packs of cigarettes and tobacco.

Illegal and counterfeit dealers will be prosecuted, and could face up to seven years in prison.

Peter Astley, Trading Standards North West’s strategic lead for illicit tobacco, said: “We are really increasing our ability to wage war on this trade which has links to organised crime as well as creating health risks.

“Our new regional intelligence and enforcement teams of trading standards professionals are sitting alongside and working with their HMRC colleagues to slash the supply of this tobacco and help to save lives.”