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Stores closed in illegal tobacco trade battle

Two Middlesbrough stores have been shut down in the ongoing crackdown on illegal tobacco sales in the town.

Middlesbrough Council’s Public Protection Service was this week (July 27) granted a three-month court closure order against Bacau Mini Market on Parliament Road following numerous complaints.

The move follows the seizure of 38 packets of illicit cigarettes from the store last month.

An application was also made for a closure order against Bosc Vegas on Gresham Road, with Teesside Magistrates extending the notice until a hearing next Friday (August 5).

Investigations into the trade in illicit tobacco have been carried out in conjunction with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as part of a national Trading Standards initiative code-named Operation Cece.

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “Our work as part of Operation Cece, which is playing a significant role in disrupting the illicit tobacco trade and taking illegal tobacco off the streets, has resulted in a number of local shops being closed down for three to six months. 

“Our Trading Standards team receives and acts on information and complaints from the public about retailers and individuals who are selling illegal tobacco, often to children and young people.

“Working alongside HMRC and Cleveland Police, we are taking decisive action to identify those responsible and subject them to appropriate enforcement sanctions.”  

Councillor David Coupe, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for Adult Social Care and Public Protection, said: “We know that half of all long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related health harms so we need to make sure that children and young people are not attracted to or get hooked on tobacco.

“The trade in illicit tobacco doesn’t care whether children and young people suffer from the social, health or economic effects smoking causes.

“Therefore, educating people about smoking health harms and targeting the supply and retail sale of illegal tobacco products is vital to the broader health and wellbeing interests of our local community.

“I would encourage anyone who is aware of illicit tobacco being sold by any business or residential premises in Middlesbrough to report it to Trading Standards.

“All calls are treated in confidence and could be helping to stamp out this appalling trade.”

To report illegal tobacco sales, call the Public Protection Service on 01642 728223 or email the Public Protection Service at EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk.