Illegal tobacco could push cigarette selling businesses ‘to the edge of survival’ according to the new Herts police and crime commissioner.
Smuggled, bootlegged and home-made tobacco, often mixed with high levels of chemicals – and even rat and camel dung – can be sold for almost half the price of those sold legally in corner shops.
Without UK duty paid, such tobacco holds huge advantages over high street prices. Commissioner David Lloyd said: “Illegal cigarettes are an absolute nuisance. “It means that businesses that sell cigarettes are more likely to be put on the edge of survival. People are taking away their trade.”
While 25g of rolling tobacco may cost around £8 in store, illicit products cost closer to £4. But Mr Lloyd said it is important that prices remain high to discourage young people from taking up the unhealthy habit.
He said: “Cigarettes are bad for your health and keeping prices high must be good.”
A 21-year-old Hemel Hempstead man told the Gazette it is easy to come across illegal tobacco.
The part-time driver said: “I smoke it all the time. It tastes exactly the same. You can get it pretty much anywhere.”
Herts County Councillor Richard Thake, who oversees community protection, said: “The sale of smuggled cigarettes is unregulated and damages the whole community.”
The county council has pledged its support to an East of England campaign that recently seized more than 175,000 illegal cigarettes.
This type of criminal activity costs the taxpayer £2 billion each year and is widespread. While it is illegal to sell counterfeit cigarettes, it is not against the law to buy them.
>To spot signs of illegal tobacco, the NHS urge people to look for, tobacco on sale in car boots, cheap tobacco sold in pubs, clubs and workplaces, legitimate retailers selling tobacco remarkably cheap, products without health warnings or in another language, products without ‘UK duty paid’ patches and unusual or foreign brands.
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco is asked to call the customs hotline anonymously on 0800 595 0000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.