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Illicit tobacco taken off the borough’s streets

Raids across Hounslow have led to £5,000 of illicit tobacco being taken off the borough’s streets, partly thanks to tips offs from the public.

In March, Hounslow Council’s trading standards team joined forces with BWY Canine, specialist sniffer dogs, London Borough of Hounslow police team and Public Health to highlight the dangers of illicit tobacco at a week-long roadshow held across the borough.

Illicit tobacco includes smuggled tobacco where tax has not been paid, often known as ‘cheap whites’ without a UK duty stamp; counterfeit and illegally produced tobacco products.

The operation saw visits to ten premises in the borough uncovering illicit tobacco at four.

The haul included 6,700 cigarettes, 350 grams of hand rolling tobacco and 615 pouches of chewing tobacco, which is banned in the UK.

Three seizures were made following tip-offs from the public visiting the roadshow, with the fourth made as part of a routine inspection. Premises owners were all issued with a formal caution and their illicit goods seized.

Councillor Sue Sampson, Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Community Protection, said: “The dangers associated with smoking are no secret but not many people know how much worse illicit tobacco can be.

“I thank those who came forward to report those who want to gamble with the health of our residents in order to make a quick profit.”

Tell-tale signs of illicit tobacco include:

  • Tobacco without pictorial health warnings
  • Poor detailing such as poor print, spelling errors, inconsistent lettering
  • Packs without domestic tax stamps or security marks
  • Packs with non-domestic tax stamps
  • Unusual taste
  • Unusually cheap

Last month, the government agreed to introduce a number of changes to tobacco sales and advertising in a bid to reduce the number of people taking up smoking. New regulations include:

  • tobacco packaging in the UK must be uniformly olive green and with large images as health warnings, on the front and back of packets
  • Hand-rolled tobacco must contain minimum of 30g of tobacco
  • Banning packs of ten cigarettes
  • Banning menthol cigarettes and skinny “lipstick-style” cigarettes by 2020

Tobacco companies have been given a year to comply with the immediate regulations.

If you are aware of anyone selling illicit tobacco products in the borough email trading.standards@hounslow.gov.uk with details.

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