Illegal Tobacco Disruption in Derby: Protecting Consumers, Safeguarding Businesses

Published: 30 September 2022

Illicit Tobacco on shop floor

Illicit tobacco on a shop floor.

Since February 2022, Derby City Council’s Trading Standards team have seized almost £250,000 worth of illicit and counterfeit tobacco products from city shops, seriously disrupting their sale and supply. The work has taken place as part of a nationwide operation called Op CeCe.

Including almost 400,000 cigarettes and over 100kg of hand-rolling tobacco, these recently seized products don’t just mean lost duty worth over £160,000 but as with all tobacco products, they are a serious risk to the health of those who purchase them. This is because the organised crime gangs who produce them often bulk the products using sawdust, the dust swept up from warehouse floors and dried leaves from other plants. Fake cigarettes and tobacco have even been found to contain asbestos, human and rodent faeces, weed killer, metal shavings, insects and mould (and that’s not an exhaustive list).

So, how do the team find these products and seize them?

The Trading Standards team in Derby works closely with Derbyshire Police and the National Trading Standards team to gather intelligence, some of which comes from members of the public, and identify shops where it’s suspected these products are being sold.

Once the team has identified premises where they believe these illicit products are being sold, the team will visit often with a team of sniffer dogs as well as local police officers to inspect the shop and look for products that might have been concealed.

Although selling illicit and counterfeit tobacco products might seem like a victimless crime, the organised crime gangs that help bring these products into the country are also often linked with other serious organised crime. This includes human trafficking, modern slavery and the sale of other dangerous products like counterfeit alcohol, which can prove deadly.

Councillor Jerry Pearce, Cabinet Member for Streetpride, Public Spaces and Leisure commented:

Our Trading Standards team is playing its part in tackling this trade which has a complex profile and links to organised crime. The trade in Illicit cigarettes steals business away from legitimate retailers by undercutting costs set by Government. 

We will continue to clamp down on the illegal sales of such goods and ensure the people in Derby are safe from traders who break the law.

Should members of the public wish to report the suspected sale of illicit cigarettes confidentially they can do so through Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133.

Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:

The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 13 million illegal cigarettes, 4,300kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 110kg of shisha products from sale in the first year of the operation, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.

Derbyshire Police quote

Residents can report the suspected sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco confidentially:

  • On the Action Fraud website or by calling 0300 123 2040
  • On the Citizens Advice website or by calling 0808 223 1133
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