Walsall Council has revoked a Town trader’s alcohol licence for selling illicit counterfeit cigarettes on four separate occasions between 2019 and 2020, despite previous warnings and interventions from Walsall Trading Standards and local police.
At a recent Walsall Council Licensing and Safety Committee review on 03 February 2021, it was decided that Shamim Khan the proprietor of ‘News and Booze’, Ablewell Street Walsall had “exhibited a flagrant disregard of his responsibilities as a premises licence holder.”
Over the course of one hour, comprehensive evidence was put before the committee to support an application to remove Mr Khan’s licence. The committee heard that over a period of 18 months Trading Standards had given several warnings to Mr Khan about illegal sales, but he had disregarded this advice and continued to sell counterfeit cigarettes for as little as £3.00 a pack.
Local police also voiced grave concerns about the role illicit tobacco plays in financing serious organised crime in the West Midlands and wider.
In support, Public Heath also told the committee of the serious and heightened health risks that illegal tobacco poses to children and young people. The committee heard that underage sales are common practice for those who peddle in this illicit trade and that children can buy single cigarettes, or packets at a greatly reduced prices. Those selling them will have scant regard for the associated risks, only for their profit. The committee heard that the tobacco is produced in unsanitary conditions and is then smuggled in to the United Kingdom with no regulatory checks and it will often contain banned chemicals.
West Midlands Fire service shared further concerns too, citing the greater fire risks and choking hazards due to the tobacco’s increased flammability and heightened toxicology. The licensing committee members assessed this information carefully and decided unanimously that Mr Khan’s actions posed a considerable health risk to his customers, as well as to young people and approved the removal of his licence.
Cllr Garry Perry, Deputy Leader Walsall Council and portfolio holder for Safer Communities and Regulatory Services at said;
“Mr Khan was made fully aware by Trading Standards that his actions were not only illegal and harmful but would also put his licence at risk. Yet he still chose to sell cheap counterfeit cigarettes to undercover officers on four separate occasions. He deliberately and ‘flagrantly’ chose to ignore our warnings and carried on putting the health and safety of his customers at risk. The Council, Police and Fire Service have all carefully assessed the evidence and voiced serious and shared concerns about his suitability to hold a licence in Walsall.
“It was therefore the committee’s unanimous decision to revoke it. “
Notes to editors
- Trading Standards officers had visited Mr Khan’s Ablewell Street business premises in August 2019, following complaints that illegal cigarettes were being sold from his ‘News and Booze’ shop.
- During a search of the premises a sleeve of ten packets of ‘Gold Classic’ cigarettes were found in a microwave oven in the storeroom.
- This brand of cigarettes is specifically made for smuggling and has no legal equivalent on sale in the UK.
- It was not in the legally required plain packaging and lacked the requisite warnings and ‘Duty Paid’ stamp.
- Mr Khan protested that they were not for sale and were for his own use, but the cigarettes were seized by Trading Standards officers
- It was explained to Mr Khan that it was illegal to sell cigarettes packaged in that way, and he risked his alcohol licence by doing so and Trading Standards Walsall sent him a warning letter.
- Despite this warning, counterfeit cigarettes of well-known brands have subsequently been sold on each of the four times that covert test purchasing has been undertaken at this store.
- From December 2019 – August 2020, test purchasers who bought cigarettes from this store were charged between £3 and £5.
- The normal retail price for 20 cigarettes is approximately £11 a pack.
- Sale of illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to start smoking due to its price. This makes it more likely for them to become habitual smokers at a young age.
- The illegal tobacco trade is often part of organised criminal activity and is linked to a range of other illegal trades including alcohol, people-trafficking, modern-day slavery and drug smuggling. There is also evidence to suggest that the illegal tobacco trade funds terrorism.
The full committee hearing can be viewed here.