Smokers of illegal cigarettes in Portadown are returning in droves to the official outlets due to fears of additional health problems, the Portadown Times has been told.
The illegals brands – imported from countries like China, Lithuania and the Iberian Peninsula – are being sold in four or five outlets in the area at around 40 per cent of the recommended retail price. The official price is around the £8.50 mark for a packet of 20, with the illicit brands selling at £3.
But they have been causing throat problems and a large percentage of smokers are returning to the official brands.
A spokesperson for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) told the Portadown Times, in a former investigation, that there were no controls whatsoever in the contents of the illegal brands, which were being imported from various parts of the world.
“We hear of all sorts of rubbish going into them,” a spokesperson said. “Health problems are inevitable, as people who buy these products don’t know what they are inhaling. At least, there are controls over what goes into the official product.”
A local retailer said, “At the start when the illegal brands went onto the market, our sales fell by up to 25 per cent. But a large number of smokers have returned to the approved brands, complaining they were experiencing throat problems. Our sales are definitely going back up again.
“It’s no wonder. Nobody is sure what goes into the illegal brands, which are packaged in very professional-looking official-type packets to make people think they are the real thing, which they certainly aren’t.”
The police have no input into taking the illegal sellers to justice unless they are called in to raid the outlets by HMRC, although there have been one or two raids in Portadown over the past year or so.
The HMRC is taking the national view on the problem which is costing the UK £billions in lost taxes, and working to cut off supplies as they illegally enter the country.
Councillor Jonny Buckley, who believes the police should act locally, said, “I have contacted the police to act on the illegal selling, but they insists it’s up to the HMRC. The illegals are being sold openly in Portadown and everyone knows where the outlets are. It’s high time it was eradicated.”