Illegal tobacco market in Nottingham starting to impact on shop owners
SHOP owners say the illegal tobacco market in Notts is now so big it is cutting their genuine sales by as much as a fifth.
The Post reported last week how research from a tobacco firm suggests more than 780,000 counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes are smoked every day across the county.
Shop owners have since said the black market trade is pulling regular customers.
Some are even being pestered by customers to start selling cheaper illegal cigarettes under the counter.
Ashfaq Ahmed, owner of Johnno's Mini Market in Sneinton Road, Sneinton, estimates his sales have dropped ten to 20 per cent over the last three years because of the black market.
He said: "I've spoken to other retailers who are tempted to sell illegal tobacco but I don't even think about it.
"Some people will even come in and talk about it and say 'I wish you would because your shop is closer to my house'."
One Long Eaton business owner, who asked not to be named, said: "I never thought the problem would hit my doorstep but it has. Some of the people we see regularly for tobacco might say 'John in the pub has got me some'.
"We're here for the long term and to me it's not worth it.
"People will come in and say 'have you got any cheap fags?' and you know what they are after."
Barry Whiten's shop Whiten's News in Westdale Lane, Carlton, has been in his family for 111 years.
He says no-one ever comes in asking for "cheaper tobacco" but says he has heard about other people selling it.
He said: "I think the secret just gets passed on from any retailers that are playing with it. Over the last 18 months we've seen a big increase in the sale of cigarette papers – but not in tobacco to match."
An operation launched in June by Community Protection, an organisation involving Notts Police and Nottingham City Council, is cracking down on the illegal tobacco trade.
City trading standards manager Jane Bailey said: "We're getting a lot of information and working really hard to crack down on it. If anyone is thinking of selling it – think twice."
Anyone with information about the sale or manufacture of illegal tobacco is asked to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.