Lambeth Trading Standards have dealt a serious blow to the counterfeit cigarette racket in the borough with the interception and seizure of a consignment worth £136,000 sent from China and destined for local shops.
The seizures were a result of information received from a courier company whose own security staff spotted the suspicious packages. After a routine examination they contacted Lambeth Trading Standards when they found the boxes were full of cigarettes.
When examining the boxes Trading Standards Officers found various cigarette brands and sent samples to the manufacturers for them to confirm they were fake as suspected. The manufactures soon confirmed this.
These cigarettes are made in China under poor conditions and using very low grade materials. Organised crime gangs then transport the illegal products to this country and distribute them here to newsagents and small shops. Often this is done by going from shop to shop or just approaching members of the public.
Not only are these products illegal, with the money paid going to fund further criminal activity and organised gangs, but also the cigarettes themselves are much more dangerous than the real thing. Tests have shown that these products contain high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic which can cause kidney and lung damage, heart problems, fertility problems, dementia and a much greater risk of cancers. They also contain much higher levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide and many smokers complain of very poor ‘taste’ and a burning in the throat.
The sale of counterfeit cigarettes not only defrauds the Exchequer but funds organised crime. HM Customs and Excise Service estimates that “85% of cheap cigarettes sold in London are counterfeit. A massive 65 per cent of smokers in the capital are mistakenly convinced their cheap supplies are real – believing they are buying ‘duty free’ or ‘duty paid’ cigarettes”.
Trading Standards remind the public that cigarettes sold on the street are likely to be fake. Shopkeepers should decline cheap cigarettes from people they don’t know. Purchases should be made only from recognised wholesalers as bypassessing counterfeit cigarettes a trader commits a criminal offence.
Robert Gardner, Head of Lambeth Trading Standards, says “Over 1 million fake cigarettes are seized every day in the UK. We urge you not to buy them and to report them to either your local Trading Standards or Customs and Excise.”
Lambeth’s Executive Member for the Environment Cllr Clare Whelan said: “These cigarettes are dangerous – far more damaging to health than ordinary cigarettes – and the proceeds fund organised crime. Stay away from them.”