Gillingham named as the capital of illicit cigarette sales, according to a new survey
half of cigarettes smoked in Gillingham are illegal, a survey has
MSIntelligence revealed the town topped the table for having the
worst habit when it comes to smoking counterfeit cigarettes.
Its Empty Discarded Pack
Collection Survey analysed almost 13,000 empty cigarette packs
discarded in bins and on the streets across 105 cities and towns in
It found 54.5% of packets
thrown away in Gillingham had avoided tax, while Poole came second
(50.83%), and Worthing third (49.24%).
Nationally one in four
packs (26%) were said to be from the black market, up from one in
five a year ago.
Former Detective Chief
Inspector Will O’Reilly, of Scotland Yard, said: “Interestingly,
Gillingham was also highest 18 months ago.
“The reason may be the
proximity to the Channel ports, it may be a recent downturn in the
local economy and it may be the fact that there’s a lot of
organised crime happening there.
“What we are seeing is
organised criminal groups who are historically linked to drugs,
firearms, people smuggling, are turning away from those perhaps
more riskier enterprises to smuggling cigarettes because the profit
margins are great.”
It is estimated that
smuggled cigarettes cost the taxpayer up to £3.6billion in revenue
a year, which equates to an extra £200 in tax for every family.
Mr O’Reilly also warned
those smoking illegal cigarettes to be aware of the health
He said: “People are
putting themselves at risk - one survey found smoking one of these
was the equivalent of smoking 30 legal cigarettes.
“All sorts of things have
been found in them, including human faeces, rat dropping, sawdust,
grass and some of these with very high levels of toxin.
“Children are also being
put in danger as some of these retailers and unscrupulous sellers
are targeting children.”
Cllr Tristan Osborne
(Lab) called for “immediate” action to be taken.
He said: "It is clear
that sales of illicit tobacco have now reached endemic levels in
the Medway Towns.
"The Council Portfolio
holder and our MPs need to say immediately what they will do to
highlight this problem at a national level and what measures they
will introduce to see this figure reduce.”
Rehman Chishti MP said he
would now be seeking assurances from the council that all action
was being taken to address the issue.
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