Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has withdrawn its support from two convenience stores after they were found guilty of selling illegal tobacco.

Supersave Xpress in Harlesden was ordered to pay £6,000 by Brent council’s Trading Standards team when 400 packets of illicit cigarettes were found on the site, including some which were counterfeit.

Maxi Food and Wine in Southgate had its license to sell alcohol suspended for three months after illegal cigarettes, vapes and Viagra were seized from the site following a test purchase exercise run by Trading Standards.

JTI UK has written to both stores to inform them that their Business Advisers will no longer be available to visit and no further support will be offered by the tobacco manufacturer.

Ian Howell, fiscal and regulatory affairs manager at JTI, said he hoped the stores’ other suppliers would follow suit. “JTI’s swift response to the criminal activity seen in these cases demonstrates our commitment to backing the actions of Trading Standards in tackling the distribution and sale of illegal tobacco. We hope that other businesses supplying services to these stores will follow our lead and withdraw their support too.”

According to HMRC estimates, criminal tobacco activity has resulted in a tax revenue loss of £51.3bn since 2000. Recent JTI research showed that over a third of smokers have bought tobacco products that were not in the plain packs legally required in the UK.

Howell also praised progress on powers to give Trading Standards powers to take on the illicit trade, something JTI has lobbied MPs for.

“With sales of illegal tobacco on the increase it is good to see that later this year Trading Standards will be given new powers that will allow them to issue ‘on-the-spot’ fines of up to £10,000 against any business selling illegal tobacco.”

He urged retailers to report illicit activity to the authorities.

“It is imperative that honest retailers do their part to help by reporting any information they have about the sale of illegal tobacco or vapes to their local Trading Standards department through the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.”

For further support, retailers can reach out to JTI’s Customer Care line on 0800 163503 or visit JTI’s trade retailer website https://www.jtiadvance.co.uk/dontbecomplicit

JTI has been a proud supporter of Responsible Retailing Week - an initiative to highlight the work being done by to combat the illicit trade and prevent underage sales.