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One in ten of all cigarettes sold in Burton is illegal

A MAJOR investigation has revealed that the streets of Burton are being blighted by the sale of illegal cigarettes.

Council bosses now believe that one in 10 of all cigarettes sold in the town are illegal.

Figures have also revealed that 28 per cent of smokers in East Staffordshire buy illegal or counterfeit cigarettes.

People in the area buy their tobacco regularly from ‘non-shop’ sources such as pubs, car boot sales and market stalls, which offer much lower prices than high street shops.

The shocking facts and figures means the continuation of efforts by Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire County Council and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to try to crackdown on the problem.

A county council spokesman said: “These products are widely available at low cost and this undermines efforts to discourage smoking through higher pricing of legitimate tobacco.

“The county council has worked hard to combat the sale of illicit alcohol and tobacco in recent years.

“We have received a great deal of information from local people on shops and individuals suspected of selling illicit tobacco products which plays a big part in our operations.”

The majority of the tobacco and cigarettes being sold is either counterfeit or fabricated brands manufactured with no quality control.

Stuart Taylor, HMRC assistant director, criminal investigation, revealed that raids had uncovered illegal goods stored behind cupboards and even in stashed drinks cartons.

He said: “Some of the hiding places used by retailers to conceal these goods in Burton were very sophisticated.”

Shaid Hussain, who runs Good News, in High Street, said those who chose to sell illicit goods were taking custom away from genuine stores.

But he raised concerns that the irresponsible actions of some shop owners could damage the perception of all off-licences in the town centre.

Mr Hussain said: “If these people continue to sell these cigarettes it is taking business away from shops like us – our margin is five per cent on cigarettes.

“Someone buying counterfeit cigarettes doesn’t know what is in them.”

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