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East Lancashire shopkeepers' fears over illegal cigarettes
ILLEGAL cigarette sales are putting small shops under threat of closure, owners have claimed.
It comes as a survey revealed that just over one in seven corner shops in the north west was facing financial problems due to lost sales from tobacco smuggling and cross-border shopping.
The survey, carried out by the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA), also found that four in 10 corner shop owners have considered reducing staff due to lost sales – up from one in three last year.
Blackburn shopkeeper Suleman Khonat said: “It is a huge problem. It is always losing money for shopkeepers.
“It is a problem you used to hear people just talk about now and then, but now every retailer is worried, and the way the market is now for retailers, it’s even more worrying.
“People are actually offering cigarettes on street corners and in back alleys. It’s very easily available, more than it has ever been.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle echoed his concerns and said: “It’s destroying the business of corner shops and defrauding the government out of much-needed revenue to spend on health and other services.
“Not only that, but illegal cigarettes are even more dangerous to health, because what goes into them is not regulated.
“The more the government can do to clamp down on it, and to take the people selling them to court, the better.”
An estimated 50,000 people in Lancashire smoke illegal cigarettes, but a survey by Trading Standards showed that, among young people at least, there had been a reduction in the use of illegal cigarettes.
The number of young people who bought cigarettes from other sellers such as neighbours, car boot sales and ice-cream vans fell from 38 per cent in 2011 to 29.3 per cent in 2013, and the number of young people who bought cigarettes with health warnings in different languages fell from 53 per cent in 2011 to 38 per cent in 2013.
Lancashire County Council’s principal trading standards officer Julie Waddington said the reduced number of young people buying illegal cigarettes was ‘pleasing’, and added: “We aren’t complacent. We will continue to carry out enforcement work, acting on intelligence and prosecuting unscrupulous traders who supply illicit tobacco.”
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