More than 16,000 newsagents are being urged to support the Evening Post’s campaign against illicit tobacco.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) has asked all its members to support the Don’t Let Them Make a Packet campaign to stub out the illegal tobacco trade, which is having a profound impact on small businesses across Lancashire.
Newsagents have reported they are losing out to black market criminals who are peddling illegal and unregulated products on Lancashire’s streets.
They not only lose out on the sale of tobacco products, but also from the footfall of customers who would ordinarily buy other products from their shops when they come in for cigarettes.
The NFRN has appealed for members to sign the LEP’s e-petition through its trade magazine and has also e-mailed shopkeepers.
Spokesman Solly Khonat said: “It would be great if as many shopkeepers as possible across the North West could sign this.
“It’s really easy to do and it would help bring to the government’s attention how badly tobacco smuggling affects independent retailers and how more needs to be done to protect our livelihoods and the important role we play in communities.”
The petition calls for tougher penalties for tobacco smugglers and dealers who often make far bigger profits from tobacco than drugs, but get more lenient punishments at court.
Meanwhile the campaign has scored success in Preston as police revealed they have had a slight increase in members of public coming forward with intelligence about illicit tobacco dealers.
The LEP has also received information from concerned readers.
Customs officials are continuing to investigate the discovery of a factory in Burscough producing illegal hand rolling tobacco and raw tobacco potentially worth £500,000 in unpaid duty and VAT last month.
If you suspect anyone of selling illicit tobacco, or want advice on the issue contact the Citizen’s Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
For help quitting smoking call the Stop Smoking team on 0800 328 6297.