Illicit Tobacco Dealer Sent To Prison

Friday 17 June

On the 16th June 2022, Mr Aziz Salah Abdullah from Bradford appeared at Bradford Magistrates Court for selling illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco from his business, Doskey Food Store, 178 Paley Road, Bradford, BD4 7EP. Mr Abdullah was sentenced to 6 months custody on all counts to be served concurrently. The sentence was reduced from 9 months custody to reflect his early guilty plea.

The premises was well known to West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service (WYTSS) with the Service having received intelligence about the premises supplying illicit and duty free tobacco.

Three successful test purchases and three seizures of illicit tobacco were made between the 13th October 2019 and 8th March 2021.

During the first seizure illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were seized from behind the sales counter. Working at the store was the business owner Mr Abdullah.

Despite the advice and warnings given to Mr Abdullah, he still decided to continue his store’s illegal trade in counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes.

In July 2020, illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco were again seized from behind the sales counter. Mr Abdullah was not initially present but when officers left the store Mr Abdullah was seen entering the shop carrying a bulky carrier bag. Police officers returned to the store to see Mr Abdullah restocking the drawers behind the counter that they had just emptied of illicit tobacco, with a new batch of illicit tobacco that he had brought with him.

In December 2020, an inspection visit was conducted where Mr Abdullah was working behind the counter. No illegal tobacco was found in the store but a chute was identified at the back of the counter which seemed to lead to the room above. Officers gained access to upstairs and a search revealed 2 concealments of illegal tobacco, one in the floor and one in the wall.

The total amount of illegal tobacco seized on the 3 visits to Doskey Food Store by police and trading standards was 27,740 cigarettes & 2.65kg of hand rolling tobacco. All the items seized were not in the standardised format as required by The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 and were in violation of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 as the prescribed health warnings were not present in English.

Some of the seized illicit tobacco products were also confirmed as counterfeit.

The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, funded by the five Public Health departments, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The initiative uses multi-agency enforcement and community marketing campaigns to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.

To date the programme has taken more than 9 million illicit cigarettes and 3 tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire. With more inspections planned in the coming weeks, these figures are set to increase. Training sessions with thousands of members of the public and hundreds of front line professionals have been delivered to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco.

Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “All tobacco – both legal and illegal – kills half of all long term smokers. The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to. Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal trade in tobacco costs government millions each year in lost revenue, makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime including human trafficking. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”

Councillor Sue Duffy, Deputy Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “Smoking rates in the UK are declining. Reducing the supply and demand of illegal tobacco is one important element of a comprehensive approach to tackling tobacco harm in communities. It is key to addressing smoking-related health inequalities and poverty, playing a key role in preventing young people from starting to smoke. The sentence shows how seriously the courts view these sales and this should serve as an example to others who might break the law and risk children's health.”

If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 0808 223 1133 anonymously.

Anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at

www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/