Gloucester MP: Let’s continue to clamp down on illegal tobacco

Although this was a few weeks ago, it seems to be a regular feature of local news that a Gloucester retailer is found guilty of selling illegal tobacco.

This is really sad: the retailers involved are effectively trying to make money out of damaging people’s health, and there’s a fire risk as well from tobacco not made with the ‘self-extinguishing’ feature of legal brands. Clearly the margins are attractive, and so retailers have been ratcheting up the ingenuity of hiding their illegal products. Nor is this an innocent misunderstanding: no one can pretend that they didn’t know what they were doing when spending money on trap doors, fake shelves and so on.

But very few consider the risks to themselves. Getting a criminal record in this country severely damages individual and family life chances. A criminal record from deliberately trading illegal tobacco will have serious consequences.

So, to any retailer who is tempted to make a fast buck from illegal tobacco, my message is this: deliberately damaging the health of your customers (and my constituents) is a very bad thing and it has consequences, while adding pressure to our NHS later as well; and sooner or later it will be very bad for you too. Just don’t go there.

Meanwhile we should all congratulate the GCC on continuing to catch the criminals involved, and I encourage the media to name and shame those caught. There are lots of things we can do and are doing to improve our high streets, like the new UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre above Eastgate Market – and we don’t want a reputation as a hub of illegal tobacco.