As well as confiscating illegal products, the two cases, which were part of Sheffield Trading Standards ongoing initiative to stamp out the availability of counterfeit and smuggled illicit tobacco, 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.
The prosecution came following a test purchase by Sheffield Trading Standards in September 2017. Officers carried out the test purchase at Sta’s Grocery, Main Road Darnall and were sold a packet of counterfeit rolling tobacco and a packet of foreign labelled cigarettes. In a follow up later that month, the shop was searched assisted by a tobacco detection dog and more than 9,120 cigarettes and 75 pouches of rolling tobacco were seized. Some products were hidden in a purpose built concealed unit behind shelving.
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 Marsdens 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.
Mr Marsden was fined £600 and ordered to pay £350 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
In addition Mr Marsden forfeited and signed 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.
Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council said:
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.
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.
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.
Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council, said:
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.
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.
People who suspect or know that illegal tobacco sales are taking place can report their concerns to Sheffield Trading Standards at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Consumer Direct on 03454 040506.
Smokefree Sheffield brings the city’s tobacco control board partners and local services together under one umbrella and has been set up to help smokers, non-smokers, quitters and the whole community work towards a future without tobacco.
To find out more about Smokefree Sheffield, including advice and support to quit visit www.smokefreesheffield.org