TWELVE shops in Newport have been closed since the start of 2022 for selling illegal tobacco.

Newport council’s trading standards team led targeted investigations against the shops, which were each then closed under a three-month anti-social behaviour order issued by Gwent Magistrates’ Court.

It is estimated that the closures have prevented around £375,000 worth of illegal tobacco sales.

Trading Standards Wales has reported that more than 1.2 million illegal cigarettes and more than 163kg of rolling tobacco has been seized across Newport since the start of 2021.

In the same period across Wales, more than 2.8 million illegal cigarettes and nearly 500kg of illegal rolling tobacco was confiscated.

So how big an issue is the sale of illegal tobacco in Newport, and what is the possible impact of this?

What is illegal tobacco?

The ‘No ifs. No Butts’ campaign, funded by the Welsh Government, outlined the most common examples of what is defined by illegal tobacco:

  • ‘Cheap whites’ which are mass produced in one country and smuggled into another;
  • Cheap genuine tobacco smuggled into the UK with no-duty paid (with packages often in foreign languages and with a lack of health warnings);
  • Cigarettes sold individually instead of in packets;
  • Counterfeits or fakes which look like well-known brands but are made illegally.

Which shops have been closed?

Following the most recent of the closure orders being issued, a spokesperson for Newport City Council said: “The council’s trading standards team has worked hard to bring action against twelve shops this year that have been found to be selling illegal tobacco.”

The shops are:

  • Newport Mini Market, 153 Chepstow Road (closed until April 19);
  • Caerleon Mini Market, 153 Caerleon Road (closed until April 19);
  • Pill Mini Market, 46 Commercial Street (closed until April 26);
  • Cromwell Store, 43 Cromwell Road (closed until May 9);
  • NP Mini Market, 7B Westgate Buildings (closed until May 11);
  • Nazar Mini Market, 184-186 Corporation Road (closed until May 11);
  • F Mayberry, 154 Commercial Street (closed until May 23);
  • International Supermarket, 54 Commercial Road (closed until June 2);
  • Crystal Market, 55 Commercial Street (closed until June 2);
  • Blue Fanta, 424 Chepstow Road (closed until June 16);
  • Blue Fanta #1, 10 Gloster Place (closed until June 16);
  • Corpa Mini Market, 333 Corporation Road (closed until June 23).

What are the dangers of illegal tobacco sales?

A survey by the non-profit group Action on Smoking and Health Wales (ASH Wales) found that the illegal tobacco market makes up 15 per cent of all tobacco sales in Wales, with a higher prevalence in deprived communities.

“Illegal tobacco has been known to have links with serious organised crime,” read an ASH Wales statement. “Selling illegal tobacco may initially seem straight-forward, but if you look past the sellers and look further up the production chain, there is scope to fund serious criminal activity.

“Illegal tobacco sales have been known to fund drug operations and even human trafficking.

“It’s a gateway for children. Sellers often target children by selling cigarettes individually and/or at cheap prices.

“All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to start smoking. Sellers rarely care who they sell to and can play a big part in starting a life-long addiction.

“Finally, cheap prices and the lack of health warnings do not help smokers to quit.

“In a nutshell, it is harmful to public health.

“It is estimated that smoking costs NHS Wales over £302 million annually. Pricing, packaging, and laws are in place to dissuade smokers from taking up the habit in Wales. Illegal tobacco undermines these efforts and poses a risk not just to public health but also to our economy.”

How big an issue is it in Newport?

Figures provided to the ‘No Ifs. No Butts’ campaign by Trading Standards Wales show the levels of illegal tobacco seized across Wales since January 2021.

In these, Newport is by far the Gwent authority that has been most severely affected.

South Wales Argus: Data on illegal tobacco seizures from 'No Ifs. No Butts'.Data on illegal tobacco seizures from 'No Ifs. No Butts'.


Newport saw more than 1.2 million cigarette sticks seized, while the next highest is in Caerphilly (207,160) and then Blaenau Gwent (58,441).

And more than 163kg of rolling tobacco was seized in Newport during the same time period – roughly four times as much as the total amount seized in the other four Gwent authorities combined.

A spokesperson for Newport City Council said: “The council’s trading standards team has worked hard to bring action against twelve shops this year that have been found to be selling illegal tobacco.

“Investigations by the team led to the seizure of over 1.2 million illegal cigarettes and over 163kg of rolling tobacco in 2021.

“Illegal tobacco sales fuel other criminal activities and put children at greater risk of taking up smoking thanks to the lack of checks sellers make when selling these goods.

“If anyone suspects a shop of selling illegal tobacco, they can report this to the national No Ifs. No Butts campaign, which works to stamp out illegal tobacco sales in Wales.”

We also asked our readers for their opinions after the latest closure orders were issued.

Doug Rowlands praised Newport’s trading standards team for closing the twelve shops this year.

“Well done for closing them down,” he said. “Stop giving money to the dealers and third parties.”

And Daniel Spencer said: “I think illegal cigarettes are bad as it can cause health problems and you don't know what's in it. But then the prices of it is making people do it to help their addiction.”

However, some readers expressed concerns that some of the shops appeared to still be open despite being the subject of a closure order.