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Store forced to close over illegal tobacco sales

A Middlesbrough store has been shut down after being caught selling illegal tobacco products.

Supermarket at 31 Market Place in North Ormesby will be out of action for at least three months following the seizure in September of more than 6,600 cigarettes and 4.5kg of hand rolling tobacco from the premise and linked vehicles.

When Middlesbrough Council Trading Standards visited the shop last Friday (November 11) to give notice of intention to apply for a closure order, officers found and seized a further 36 packets of illicit cigarettes and 250g of hand rolling tobacco. 

The joint HMRC and Trading Standards crackdown is part of a national enforcement drive - codenamed Operation Cece - which aims to disrupt and tackle the trade in illicit tobacco.

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “Illicit tobacco is harmful to our local communities as it reduces the impact of health improvement measures designed to reduce the prevalence of smoking and reduce health inequalities, and it brings crime into neighbourhoods. 

“There was clear evidence of ongoing illegal activity at 31 Market Place, which highlights why the closure of the property was necessary.

“We will continue to investigate and take action against individuals and businesses involved in selling illicit tobacco and this will include seeking closure orders to stop business premises being used to support this crime.”

Councillor David Coupe, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for Adult Social Care and Public Protection, said: “We strive to make Middlesbrough a healthy town, a safe place to live and a place where legitimate businesses can thrive.

“The Council’s Public Protection Service and its Trading Standards team continue to protect the interest of local people and ensure lawful and fair trading practices.

“This latest closure order will keep the premises closed for at least three months to stop it being used for criminal purposes and prevent nuisance to local residents and businesses.”

Anyone with information on illicit tobacco being supplied from any business or residential premises in Middlesbrough is asked to call the Trading Standards hotline on 01642 728223 or email EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk