Following the launch of a campaign across York to tackle the trade in illegal tobacco, City of York Council successfully prosecuted its first such case on Thursday 12th February. Nicholas Pericleous (aged 68) of Seventh Avenue, York pleaded guilty to selling illegal tobacco and possession with intent to supply. He was charged £500 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge, and was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

A test purchase made on 14 November 2014 at the Copper Kettle café on Walmgate revealed tobacco was being sold from the premises without the labeling that the UK law requires. Trading Standards officers seized 52 packets of cigarettes of a number of brands. When interviewed under caution, café owner Nicholas Pericleous who made the sale, said he had bought the tobacco for personal use but admitted to selling it to customers who requested it. At York Magistrates Court, Pericleous was charged with one sale to a Trading Standards officer and three examples of products he was in possession for supply.

A further 49 offences relating to illegal tobacco sales were also asked to be taken into consideration, which Pericleous accepted. An order was also made for the forfeiture and destruction of the cigarettes.

The campaign against cheap, illegal tobacco highlights that while the trade might seem like a victimless crime, it makes it easier for children to smoke and brings crime into local communities. Illegal cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at half or even a third of the price, in a range of locations such as pubs and clubs, shops, from private houses or from street hawkers.

Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, Cabinet Member for Homes and Safer Communities said:
“As this case shows, we’re making inroads into what continues to be a problem: around 1 in 10 cigarettes were illegal in 2013 compared to 1 in 5 in 2000. So smokers are urged to think about the impact local illicit sales have on enabling children to smoke.”

“City of York Council is clamping down on the sale of cheap, illegal cigarettes. The cost of smoking is far higher than the amount earned in duty – it’s highly unlikely that the duty was ever paid on the tobacco seized. Not only were these products cheap but they didn’t carry the stark warnings of the dangers a person takes when smoking a cigarette. Anyone who knows where illicit tobacco is being sold is being urged to contact City of York Council’s Trading Standards via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”

Cllr Linsay Cuningham, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Community Engagement, said:
“All tobacco – both legal and illegal – kills half of all long-term smokers, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the city and the sale of cheap tobacco undermines government attempts to restrict consumption through price. We know that 8 out of 10 smokers want to give up but their quit attempts are really undermined if somebody offers them a cheap supply of tobacco. It’s also really worrying that children are being targeted by unscrupulous dealers. This prosecution clearly states how seriously City of York Council takes this issue as part of wider efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking and to cut the number of children who take up smoking every year.”

Enforcement efforts have been supported by a publicity campaign featuring radio adverts, posters and materials distributed in local communities and a website http:// where people can find out more about the problems with illegal tobacco. Anyone with information should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.