Tackling Tobacco Crime across the Midlands

Over 5.5 million illegal cigarettes and 645 kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service and other local Trading Standards within the Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA). The cigarettes and tobacco were seized in the last financial year (2016/2017) with a loss to the tax payer of over £2 million. The total retail value of the illegal goods is estimated to be worth more than £2.5 million.

The cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were often well hidden, in sophisticated concealments using electronic magnets controlled by a switch, in cavity walls and even disguised as BBQ sets. Such hiding places are difficult to detect without the aid of specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.

All offending businesses are subject to a criminal investigation, with some traders already being successfully prosecuted. Some have received financial penalties, others, suspended prison sentences and community orders. In addition, some shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products.

Warwickshire County Councillor Howard Roberts, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said:  “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade is providing a cheap source of cigarettes for children and young people. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, makes it easier for children to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free. The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS.’’

Bob Charnley, Chairman of CEnTSA said ‘‘More and more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to Trading Standards, to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco. Combating illegal tobacco has become an increasing priority for Trading Standards. The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with crime and criminal gangs, including drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism. Selling illegal tobacco is a crime.”  Mr Charnley added ‘‘retailers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach, adapting their methods in order to avoid detection. Some businesses had gone to great lengths to conceal the illegal tobacco in secret compartments, including BBQ sets, fake floor boards, false walls, ovens and fridges. You may hide it, but we will find it.’’

Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets and often have foreign writing on them. Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to Trading Standards by calling the CEnTSA’s confidential fakes hotline on 0300 303 2636.

For more details on NHS Stop Smoking Services in Warwickshire go to www.quit4good.co.uk or phone 0800 085 2917.

 

What is cheap or illegal tobacco?

All tobacco products are harmful. Whether they are bought legitimately from a retailer or illegally on the black market, all tobacco products contain over 4,000 chemicals, at least 60 of which are known to cause cancer.

Illegal tobacco products are cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco or niche products (such as beedis/bidis and sheesha/shisha) that have been smuggled, bootlegged or are counterfeit. Illegal tobacco can be hard to spot, so here’s all you need to know – because if you can spot it, you can help stop it.

http://www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk/illegal-tobacco/how-to-spot-it

Mobile Phone Chargers Spark Safety Warning After 42% Failure Rate!

42% of generic chargers for devices including mobile phones, renewable batteries, e-cigarettes and other electrical products failed safety tests! Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service purchased a range of generic (i.e. non-branded) chargers from Internet sellers and had them safety tested as part of their cyber-crime and cyber-safety enforcement work.

Of the 12 products purchased, five failed electrical safety tests. Failures included chargers supplied with suspected counterfeit fuses and insecure internal wiring that could cause shorting, live ‘arcing’ and overheating.

Warwickshire County Councillor John Horner, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Over 1.8 million mobile phone chargers are bought online annually and in the last five years the UK has seen a six-fold increase in the number of fake and potentially unsafe electric goods being seized by enforcement authorities. Genuine chargers manufactured for specific electrical devices are designed to allow the correct charge for the item and will very often have inbuilt protection systems to prevent overcharging and overheating of the device. Generic or counterfeit chargers do not always have these protections. Many imported ‘generic’ chargers do not satisfy UK safety regulations and these sub-standard, faulty or counterfeit electrical chargers can be deadly, causing electric shocks, fires and damage to property and equipment.  In December, national retailer Poundworld were fined £ £166,000 after they sold more than 72,000 faulty charger kits with loose wires could pose a risk of fire or electric shock. The case was brought by Carmarthenshire Trading Standards.”

Warwickshire County Councillor Philip Johnson, Chair of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee added: “The number house fires caused by electrical faults has increased by 29% over the past few years and some of this increase has been due to the use of faulty electrical chargers. I would strongly urge residents not to buy chargers from unknown suppliers online especially, if they are really cheap, as we all know, if it looks too good to be true, then it usually is. So please don’t take the risk, the consequences are just too high!”

In a bid to reduce the number of fires in the home caused by faulty electrical chargers, Warwickshire Trading Standards in partnership with Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are asking residents to follow the advice below:

  • Only use the charger that has been specifically made for your electrical product model. Use official/original chargers and electrical cables
  • Only buy from reputable traders selling genuine products and check they have a British or European safety mark when buying it
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the device
  • If at all possible, don’t leave items on charge unattended for long periods and especially overnight.
  • Don’t charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped
  • Don’t cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat
  • Test your smoke alarm regularly

Warwickshire Trading Standards is now working with sellers of faulty electrical chargers to have them removed from sale and advise their customers. Some of the sellers may face further enforcement action in the courts.

Keep up to date on the latest electrical product recalls here: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls

If you believe that you have purchased an electrical product that has developed an electrical fault, caused a fire or could be potentially faulty, stop using the product and report it to Warwickshire Trading Standards on 03454