I’ve been exchanging emails with a retailer who wishes to remain anonymous so as to not jeopardise what was an ongoing police investigation on a neighbouring shopkeeper who sells single cigarettes and ‘duty free’ alcohol to underage kids.
He apparently has been heavily fined in the past, but it hasn’t deterred him.
The good retailer went to his local trading standards, but was told they were powerless (although one likes to think they passed on the information). I urged him to ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
As I write this, I received a new report on plain packaging for tobacco conducted by Transcrime, which is a joint research centre on transnational crime based in Milan. The centre exists to work out the likely effects and unintended consequences on levels of crime of proposed legislation.
It comes to the same conclusion that you or I could have told ministers. Plain packs will mean that counterfeit cigs will increase, consumers won’t care which sort they are smoking - illegal or otherwise - and smuggling will become more profitable. The report adds that, by making the packs look almost identical, the more counterfeiters will see that consumers can no longer distinguish between fakes and the real thing. The more it is regulated, the more opportunities are created for criminals.
Former detective chief inspector Will O’Reilly of Scotland Yard, who has studied illicit tobacco distribution, says in the report: “Dealers of illicit tobacco have no scruples. I have witnessed traders selling single illicit cigarettes for a few pence, clearly aimed at seducing children to part with their pocket money.”
And it gets the rest of you a bad name.
This takes us back to my anonymous emailer who now informs me that the neighbour’s shop has finally been raided by Customs and we are waiting to hear the outcome.