In May, new legislation comes into force which will see cigarettes sold in standard packaging, a ban on the sale of packs of 10 and rolling tobacco sold in a minimum size of 30g.

The moves are designed to deter people from taking up smoking and to ensure health warnings are big enough to be seen. One potential unwanted side-effect could be an increase in sales of illegal cigarettes which could be something pubs need to keep an eye on.

 

Can I lose my licence if counterfeit cigarettes are sold in my pub?

THE SHORT ANSWER: YES

 

 

THE SLIGHTLY LONGER ANSWER

Not only do you run the risk of a fine or losing your licence, but selling counterfeit cigarettes can also lead to a prison term. What's more, you can also lose your licence if staff or customers sell counterfeit cigarettes on your premises.

 

THE EXPERT ANSWERS IN FULL

Steve Wilkins
The former detective chief superintendent now works at Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in Geneva, Switzerland. His role is anti-illegal trade director for Western Europe.

 

 

"Tobacco appeals to criminals as it's highly taxed, inexpensive to produce and easy to transport and sell. The street value of one container of illegal cigarettes is around £2m, so criminals see illegal tobacco as a cash generator for their businesses.

We find illegal tobacco sold in a variety of places, through a variety of methods. Corner shops and independent retailers, where customers expect to buy legitimate tobacco products, are a primary channel.

We are also seeing a rising problem within the on-trade. JTI has observed that pubs are being increasingly used as a sales outlet for this illegal activity, whether by publicans themselves or their customers.

In a short period of time JTI has gathered evidence of more than 30 examples of pubs from Aberdeen to Brighton that have broken the law in this way.

We are seeing more and more cases of illegal tobacco being sold in pubs and want to stamp this out before it takes hold. The fear is that the introduction of standardised packaging could mean that criminals will find it even easier to produce illegal products and at far cheaper prices.

On top of this, recent European regulation will ban the sale of 10s and smaller hand-rolling packs from May 2017, meaning smokers will have to pay up to three times more for their tobacco in high street shops.

This could mean more smokers will be tempted into buying their cigarettes from dodgy dealers and criminal organisations.

We will only deal with this problem by working together and that is why we are bringing this issue to licensees' attention. It is essential they play their part in stamping out illegal tobacco in the UK's pubs now, before it takes hold.

Our message to publicans is to be vigilant, and report any activity that they suspect might be happening in their pub or in other pubs in their community to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000."

 

Anna Mathias, Barrister with national licensing firm Woods Whur

 

 

"Selling counterfeit or non-duty paid tobacco from your pub can result in large fines under Customs and Excise and trademark legislation and if your employees are using your premises for this activity or you are deemed to have turned a blind eye, you, as the business, can be fined.

Certain offences even carry a prison term. If that weren't bad enough, illegal tobacco sales can also put your premises licence at risk.

I have been involved in a number of cases in recent years where, in tandem with a prosecution, a review of the premises licence was brought, under the crime prevention objective, with a view to the licence being revoked due to allegations of illegal tobacco sales occurring on the premises. Such reviews are typically instigated by the licensing authority, working with Trading Standards and/or the police.

Depending on the precise offence(s) alleged, you could even be at risk of a summary review, so the authority could impose interim steps upon you without you having any say initially.

Those steps might include suspending your licence pending a full hearing, with potentially terminal consequences for your business. The authority could proceed with the review even if you are found not guilty of the criminal charge; the standards of proof are different.

You should keep a close eye on the activities of your staff and the contents of your storeroom — and enshrine the fact that it is illegal to sell smuggled, bootleg or counterfeit tobacco in your staff smoking policy."