Recently, Japan Tobacco UK (JTI) conducted a survey of 186 tobacco stores in the UK and found that more than half (96) of the stores were selling illegal cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
Recently, Japan Tobacco UK (JTI) conducted a testing study of 186 cigarette stores in the UK and found that more than half (96) of the stores were selling illegal cigarettes and e-cigarette products.
During the inspection and purchase operation, JTI found that counterfeit cigarette tobacco was sold for only £3.50 a pack, less than one-tenth of the price of the genuine product. The e-cigarette purchases also included overfilled products with a claimed capacity of 3,500 puffs.
Ian Howell, JTI’s finance and regulatory affairs manager, described the extent of the problem in detail. He said, “We have been conducting test purchases of illegal tobacco products, and last year we tested e-cigarettes as well. Unfortunately, illegal sales of tobacco and e-cigarettes seem to be ubiquitous and difficult to control. A survey we conducted last year also showed that close to 40 percent of smokers admitted to having purchased an illegal product in the past month.”
JTI UK provided information on all test purchases to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and TradingStandards in the hope that they would take enforcement action and prosecute.
Howell said Trading Standards needs more support in addressing the issue. “While new regulations are due to be introduced in the UK within this year, allowing HM Revenue & Customs to impose immediate fines of up to £10,000 on illegal tobacco sellers. However, surprisingly, despite initial indications that Trading Standards would have the power to intervene in this matter, this has now failed to materialise. For us devolving powers to Trading Standards would allow for better enforcement of this and must be considered if the government intends to crack down on tobacco smuggling.”
On top of this, MP Gareth Davies recently told a committee that if tobacco tax increases are too high, “this is likely to drive people to trade illegally. Again, this is a known fact.”
Howell also urged retailers to report illegal trade when they become aware of it in their area. “Retailers have a vital role to play in the fight against illicit trade and our job in the UK is to ensure they understand and are confident in communicating the dangers of illegal products to their customers. The sale of illegal tobacco products and e-cigarettes supports crime and has a negative impact on the reputation of stores in the community.