A Portsmouth convenience store has been shut down after being caught selling counterfeit tobacco and an illegal vape, and allowing a child to buy cigarettes.
According to local reports, Portsmouth City Council trading standards officers targeted Kingston Mini Market, at 98 Kingston Road, North End, after tip-offs from residents and other sources. In sting operations between November 2021 and August this year, shop staff sold counterfeit cigarettes to undercover “customers” seven times, including to a 15-year-old. An undercover investigator was also sold a disposable vape with an illegally large amount of fluid, capable of delivering a huge hit of nicotine.
Officers raided the shop twice, seizing more than 13,600 counterfeit cigarettes and more than 2kg of counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco. Despite evidence of persistent illegal sales, investigators were unable to track down those responsible, partly because of changes in ownership of the business. So they went to Portsmouth Magistrates Court to get an order closing down the store for three months.
This is the first time the council has taken this action against a shop for selling illegal tobacco products. The locks have been changed and anyone entering the premises can be fined, or jailed for up to 51 months. The council can apply for an extension to the three-month order if it is not satisfied the shop will operate lawfully.
Cllr Steve Pitt, Leader of the Council, said, “I’m very pleased with this action by our trading standards team, who found a decisive way of stopping this illegal activity and protecting local residents, especially children. The illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime. We’re grateful to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary for their help in this operation.”