Nine stores in Bolton have had licences revoked or suspended for selling illicit tobacco 

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) welcomes the decisive action taken by Bolton Council’s Trading Standards and Licensing Sub-Committee against retailers selling illicit tobacco in the town.

Last summer, JTI conducted test purchasing in Bolton and found 61% of the stores visited were selling illegal tobacco. These findings were reported to Trading Standards, which incorporated the evidence in its applications to review the stores’ licences.

The hearings took place during March 2021, and out of nine stores up for review, the Licensing Sub?Committee decided to revoke three of the licences and suspend five others. One store surrendered its licence before the hearing. These latest actions are part of ongoing enforcement work taken in the area, which included the revocation of licences for two Bolton retailers in August[1] last year.

Ian Howell, JTI’s Fiscal & Regulatory Affairs Manager, said: “We’re pleased with the outcome of these reviews and would like to thank Bolton’s Licencing Sub?Committee for continuing to take steps to tackle the illicit trade in the area and protect honest businesses. Despite what some believe, selling illegal tobacco isn’t a victimless crime – it damages legitimate business, supports criminal organisations and makes it easier for young people to get hold of tobacco products.”

The test purchasing, conducted in the summer of 2020, saw representatives acting on behalf of JTI able to buy illicit tobacco in 19 of the 31 stores visited (61%). Packs of cigarettes were bought for as little as £4.50, half the price of the cheapest legal cigarettes, while 50g packs of roll your own could be purchased for as little as £5, one fifth of the price of the genuine product.

The North West is one of the worst offending areas for illicit tobacco sales, with research by Kantar[2] finding that 34% of smokers in the North West had, in the last month, bought cigarettes or roll your own tobacco that was not in the plain packaging required by UK legislation.

The illicit tobacco trade remains a serious problem in the UK and JTI is committed to defending its own brands by supporting a range of measures including private prosecutions and gantry removals. If retailers know, or suspect, illegal tobacco is being sold in their area, they should call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133, HMRC’s Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

[1] Shop licence revoked as owner fails to show up to two hearings. Bolton News 5 August 2020 & Breightmet shopkeeper accused of selling single cigarettes to kids loses licence. Bolton News, 13 August 2020

[2] Kantar research for JTI – 2020

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