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Illicit tobacco traders prosecuted in Sheffield

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As Sheffield continues working towards a smokefree generation by 2025, two illegal traders have been prosecuted for selling illicit tobacco products.

Sheffield Trading Standards confiscated more than 27,000 cigarettes and 150 packets of tobacco. The two cases resulted in fines totalling £1,500, plus the seizure of more than £4,000 in cash.

In the most recent case, Aro Rabaty of Abbeyfield Road, Sheffield appeared at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 16 October and pleaded guilty to five offences relating to the sale of counterfeit and incorrectly labelled tobacco products from his shop in Darnall.

Mr Rabaty was sentenced to a 12-month community order to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £480 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

And only last month, on 25 September, Andrew Marsden, aged 46, of Circle Close, Manor appeared at Sheffield Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to Trade Mark and other tobacco-related offences.

Trading Standards received information warning of the illegal activity and executed a warrant at Mr Marsden’s home on 26 April 2018. Counterfeit cigarettes and rolling tobacco that did not have the required health warnings were found and seized. A van parked by the property was also searched leading to the seizure of more than 18,000 cigarettes and 78 packets of rolling tobacco.

Mr Marsden admitted selling the tobacco products found in his home to family and friends. He was fined £600 and ordered to pay £350 costs and a £60 victim surcharge, in addition to forfeiting and signing over £4,481.39 seized from his home at the time of the warrant. The court also ordered a destruction order for all tobacco seized.

Why does it matter?

Illicit cigarettes are priced on average at just £4.50 per pack, this is in line with 1980’s prices, and illegal cigarettes are often sold in singles. This makes it easier for children to buy cigarettes for pocket money prices, enabling them to get hooked on deadly tobacco addiction from a young age.

Illegal tobacco undermines the effectiveness of taxation and makes it harder for smokers to quit.

“Our trading standards service work hard to prevent people illegally selling counterfeit products because trading laws are there for a reason, to protect people from the dangers of unauthorised products.

With illegal tobacco, the already harmful effects of smoking are increased because you can’t be sure what is in unregulated items.

I hope these prosecutions are a warning to others who are selling illicit cigarettes and demonstrate that we do take action. Whether the activity happens in a shop or in someone’s home we will continue to enforce our statutory duty to protect people in Sheffield.

I would urge anyone considering buying from an illegal trader to think about the possible dangers and ask anyone who suspects or knows illegal sales are happening to report it so that we can put a stop to it.”

– Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council

Each week in Sheffield there is 16 smoking related deaths and five children start smoking every day. Smoking is the single biggest cause of illness and death in the city and a major contributor to the differences in health outcomes between the city’s richest and poorest communities.

“Illicit tobacco is typically smoked by people on low incomes making these inequalities worse. We are committed to supporting people out of tobacco addiction and a key part of our Tobacco Control Strategy is tackling the illicit market.

The illegal tobacco trade brings crime into our communities as it is often part of organised criminal activity and is linked to a range of other illegal trades including alcohol and DVD production, people-trafficking and drug smuggling, exploitation, illegal immigrants and money laundering.

Trading Standards are doing an excellent Job in ensuring we stamp out the availability of cheap and illegal tobacco in Sheffield. However we know there is more to do and we will continue to be relentless in our approach.”

– Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council

In Sheffield 132,000 cigarettes, 116KG of loose tobacco and Hundreds of thousands of counterfeit tobacco pouches have been seized by Trading Standards in the last year, resulting in prison sentences/fines/ financial forfeitures and premises losing their alcohol licenses.

How you can help

Help Sheffield Trading Standards stamp out the availability of counterfeit and smuggled illicit tobacco. If you suspect or know that illegal tobacco sales are taking place, you can report your concerns to Sheffield Trading Standards at [email protected] or call Consumer Direct on 03454 040506.