Retailers have welcomed the use of surveillance to clamp down on illegal tobacco sales, as local authorities across the UK are increasingly considering using covert methods to track down fraudsters.  

Norfolk County Council revealed in meeting documents last week that it is “exploring the use of surveillance” to help track down sellers of counterfeit tobacco goods, despite the method being “extremely costly”.

Other councils have tried surveillance tactics to catch sellers of counterfeit tobacco, including Nottingham County Council, and local retailers told RN the measures have helped stem losses. 

Panna Patel of Star News in Nottingham said illegal tobacco is causing thousands of pounds worth of losses to legitimate traders. “It’s good councils are starting to carry out surveillance – they need to do it. 

“They usually tell me they are too short-staffed when I contact them with information about illegal traders and ask them to visit in person. My tobacco gantry has shrunk since illegal products started flooding the area.” 

Norfolk’s trading standards authority said it has already seized 160,000 illegal cigarettes and more than 65kg of illegal rolling tobacco in 2017 and 2018.