Shops count cost of illicit cigarettes

Newsagent Debbie Stevenswood, who runs a shop on Linden Avenue in Thornton. BELOW: Salma Patel.
Newsagent Debbie Stevenswood, who runs a shop on Linden Avenue in Thornton. BELOW: Salma Patel.
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FYLDE coast retailers say they are losing sales due to counterfeit cigarettes amid fears the situation could get worse.

The Association of Convenience Stores has released information from the Rural Shop Alliance saying plain packaging will cost retailers £37m a year nationally.

Salma Patel, The Magazine Shop, Clifton Street

Salma Patel, The Magazine Shop, Clifton Street

They fear standardised packaging will make it easier for counterfeits to be produced.

A recent Empty Discarded Pack Collection survey by MSIntelligence indicated an increase in the number of illicit cigarettes on the streets. In the North West, 14.5 per cent of empty cigarette packets found were for counterfeit cigarettes.

Debbie Stevenswood, of Stevenswood News, Thornton, said sales of other products could be lost if people were using the illicit market for cigarettes.

She said: “These counterfeits can be really dangerous.

“If people can buy them for a pound or pence, then it will have an impact on hard-working retailers in lost sales. And if plain packaging comes in, I don’t think that will help.”

Salma Patel, who owns the Magazine Shop, Clifton Street, Lytham, said: “If the Government brings in plain packaging, it will make things easier for smugglers and counterfeiters.

“That affects our business, but the biggest concern is the fact there is no control over the ingredients in counterfeit cigarettes.

“I think if plain packaging does come in, counterfeits will become even more prevelant.”

But Jane Roberts, head of tobacco control with NHS Blackpool, said HMRC figures showed a drop nationally in illicit tobacco – from 21 per cent of the market in 2000, to nine per cent in 2010-11.

She said there was no evidence plain packaging would make counterfeiting easier and added: “Branded packaging has always been easy to counterfeit. Standardised packaging would still have the covert markings, which is how we currently identify counterfeits.

“The big concern is health - counterfeit cigarettes are not made to standards.

“Some have been found to have high levels of lead and cadium.

“The main problem is people tend to smoke more because they are cheaper.”

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