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Medway Council praised for seizing illegal cigarettes and tobacco from shops and sellers

A local authority which has taken illicit tobacco worth £200k off the streets has received national praise.

Medway Council has seized more than 60kg of products being sold illegally in 2023.

Cigarettes were seized from an untaxed car in Medway last year. Picture: Kent Police
Cigarettes were seized from an untaxed car in Medway last year. Picture: Kent Police

The Towns’ operation of targeted raids and routine inspections cost £75,000, confiscating 10,000 packets of cigarettes (195,380 individual cigarettes) and 1174 packets of hand-rolling tobacco from 14 businesses and individuals.

Together they were worth nearly £200,000.

Using government funding from Operation CeCe, Medway Trading Standards employed an officer to specifically target illegal tobacco sales.

The chair of National Trading Standards has written to the Towns’ authority to congratulate them for their effectiveness in clamping down on businesses and individuals who sold tobacco illegally.

Lord Michael Bichard, a crossbench peer, praised Medway’s performance in Operation CeCe which placed it amongst the top 15 authorities for tobacco seizures in the country.

Lord Michael Bichard, a crossbench peer
Lord Michael Bichard, a crossbench peer

Operation CeCe was launched by HMRC in 2020 and provides funding to local councils to disrupt and confiscate the sale of illicit tobacco products.

Nationally, the operation has resulted in the seizure of over 45 million cigarettes and 11 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco, with a revenue value of almost £26 million across England and Wales.

Lord Bichard said this represented a return on investment of £11 for every £1 spent on Operation Cece.

Writing to Medway Council, he said: “Not only does this work support the overall strategy across England and Wales, but it also helps protect local communities from the problems associated with the supply of illicit tobacco, and those criminals involved in the supply chains.

“I wanted to thank you for the excellent support provided by your Trading Standards Service as part of this programme.

Labour councillor Tristan Osborne
Labour councillor Tristan Osborne

“Medway Council was one of the top 15 across the country in terms of using these grant funds to secure seizures of tobacco as part of this programme of work in 2023.”

Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab), portfolio holder for community safety and enforcement, said: “It’s great to hear of the continued success of this campaign against illegal tobacco around the country, but especially pleasing to hear about the effectiveness of our work here in Medway.

“Our team has put the funding made available to excellent use, and continues to strive in its efforts to crack down on those profiting from illicit products.

“I want to thank everyone involved in this campaign, and hope that with continued government support we can continue with this important work in the future.”

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