Warning on trade standards after £ 200,000 of illegal cigarettes seized

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Residents of Pembrokeshire have been warned of the dangers of illegal cigarettes to society.

Over a million illegal cigarettes with a market value of over £ 200,000 have been seized in Wales as part of a major crackdown on the illegal tobacco trade in the country.

The milestone was taken by Welsh trade standards teams participating in Operation CeCe, an ongoing national trade standards initiative in partnership with Her Majesties Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to tackle illegal tobacco.

They say the transport seized from raids across Wales, which includes 1,039,046 cigarettes and 3,377 packets of roll-your-own tobacco, has a total market value of £ 286,782.

Many of the cigarettes seized are believed to have ended up in the hands of children and young people in Wales’ poorest communities, who are the targets of criminals selling illegal tobacco.

Evidence has been found of illegal supplies of tobacco in 17 of Wales’ 22 local authority areas and seizures have taken place in 12 areas so far.

Helen Picton, President of Trading Standards Wales, said: “The illegal tobacco trade creates a source of cheap tobacco for children and young people.

“It also undermines all the good work done to keep people from smoking, and the illegal tobacco trade is most often closely linked to criminal activity.”

In Wales, 8% of 15 and 16 year olds still smoke regularly, a figure that has not declined since 2013.

Around 6,000 children in Wales start to smoke each year and three in four of these children will become long-term smokers.

Smoking is an addiction that begins in childhood, a recent ASH Wales survey found that 76% of smokers in Wales have tried their first cigarette before the age of 18.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “For many children, buying their first pack of illegal cigarettes will be the start of a lifelong addiction that will destroy their health, lead them to poverty and eventually. kill them.

“Eradicating this deadly trade is a critical part of reducing the prevalence of smoking in Wales, which currently accounts for 18% of the adult population and causes more than 5,000 deaths each year.

“We welcome any steps taken to eliminate illegal tobacco from our communities and hope this will continue to be part of any strategy to tackle health inequalities in Wales. ”

Since the crackdown began in January 2021, Trading Standards and HMRC have gathered information on criminal tobacco gangs and are planning further raids across Wales in the coming months.

“We need to keep tobacco out of the reach of children, cheap tobacco products make it easier for children to start smoking because they are sold for pocket money by criminals who don’t care about the laws on the age restriction, ”said Helen Picton. .

Lord Toby Harris, President of National Trading Standards, said: “The illegal tobacco trade harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

“The National Trade Standards Initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing an important role in disrupting this illicit trade and helping to get illegal tobacco products off the streets. ”

Deputy Minister of Mental Health and Welfare Lynne Neagle said: “We are committed to eradicating the sale and consumption of illegal tobacco.

“Its availability makes it easier for children to start smoking, harder for those who want to quit smoking and introduces crime into local communities.

“Operation CeCe led to the biggest crackdown on illegal tobacco in Wales since devolution.

“We support the ongoing work of HMRC and Wales Trade Standards.

“We will soon be launching a campaign against illegal tobacco to raise awareness and encourage reporting of illegal tobacco. ”

Anyone with information on someone selling illegal tobacco can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit crimesstoppers-uk.org.

If you want to quit smoking, call Help Me Quit on the free number 0800 085 2219 or visit www.helpmequit.wales.

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