Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Housing & Community Safety Select Committee (ceased to operate 03/06/2015) Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 25th October, 2012
Time:
2.30pm
Place:
Jim Cooke Conference Suite, Stockton Central Library, Church Road, Stockton TS18
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Derrick Brown(Vice Chairman), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr David Wilburn
Officers:
Kerry Anderson, Victoria Cooling, Peter Kelly(CESC), Dave Kitching, Lorraine Wilford(DNS), Sarah Whaley, Graham Birtle(LD)
In Attendance:
Andy Johnston(HM Revenue and Customs), Richard Ferry, Catherine Taylor(Fresh NE)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Julia Cherrett, Cllr Robert Gibson, Cllr Tina Large, Cllr Andrew Sherris
Item Description Decision
Public
HCS
33/12
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
HCS
34/12
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
HCS
35/12
MINUTES FROM THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 28TH JUNE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR SIGNATURE.
AGREED that the minutes be signed.
HCS
36/12
DRAFT MINUTES FROM THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 19TH JULY 2012
AGREED that the minutes be approved.
HCS
37/12
REVIEW OF TOBACCO CONTROL
AGREED that:

1) the information be noted.

2) further information be provided as requested.
HCS
38/12
WORK PROGRAMME
AGREED that

1) the information be noted

2) Members confirm Work Programme timescales.

HCS
39/12
CHAIR'S UPDATE
 
2.30pm - 3.45pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
HCS
33/12
The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
HCS
34/12
There were no declarations of interest.
HCS
35/12
Consideration was given to the minutes of the meeting which was held on the 28th June 2012 for signature.
HCS
36/12
Consideration was given to the draft minutes of the meeting which was held on the 19th July 2012 for approval.
HCS
37/12
Members received information from representatives of FRESH North East(NE), North East Trading standards Association and HM Revenue and Customs.

Consideration was also given to the scope and project plan outlining Phase 2 of the review.

The Committee was informed that FRESH NE was the UK's first dedicated regional programme set up to tackle the worst rates of smoking related illness and death.

Representatives of FRESH NE and the North East Trading Standards Association delivered a presentation outlining the following points:

- Each year smoking caused the greatest number of preventable deaths.

- The North East no longer had the highest regional smoking prevalence in the UK.

- Fresh NE received funding from the 12 primary care trusts in the North East region.

- Partners working with Fresh NE included, HM Revenue and Customs, Police, Local Authorities, Environmental Health and the Health and Well Being Board.

- Intelligence led investigations had seen a reduction in the illicit market from 11% to 9% in 2011.

- Regional resources were required to tackle issues involving the sales of cigarettes to children. Evidence had been gathered highlighting single cigarettes were being sold to children for as little as 25 pence each as well as being supplied with matches and lighters making it easier for children to smoke.

- Ice Cream van vendors had also been reported for selling cigarettes and although this was not illegal it was if selling to children and if selling illicit cigarettes. Vendors caught doing so could be prosecuted and lose their vans.

- The ban of vending machines in public places was a great success story and had made it harder for young people to access cigarettes, however underage supply was still a problem.

- Although there had been success of smoke free legislation there were still issues to be tackled such as smoking in taxis and workplace vehicles.

- The success of poster campaigns using the crimestopper brands.

- Members heard that a recent consultation which had been carried out to standardise cigarette packaging, presenting worst case scenarios of the effects of smoking had received the highest number of responses of any public consultation.

- Sales from illicit cigarettes was used to fund other crimes and was also associated with other counterfeit products such as alcohol.

- Many of the people who were selling illicitly were in social housing, sometimes known as 'Tab Houses', selling at markets and car boot sales, however it was highlighted that many were exploited themselves.

- There had been an increase in people over 65's on low incomes selling illicit cigarettes.

A representative from HM Revenue and Customs provided the Committee with information of the work they were involved with in relation to the illicit and counterfeit tobacco market. The main highlights discussed were as follows:

- Illegal cigarettes were those that entered into the UK without paying excise duty, this included counterfeit cigarettes.

- Counterfeit(cheap whites), were usually manufactured in the Far East and/or Eastern Europe. A typical 40ft container could house up to 8 million cigarettes. Profits on such loads could run into millions of pounds. This highlighted how lucrative the market was in the UK.

- It was an offence to store or sell any product without paying excise duty and those doing so could face up to a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.

- The Committee was informed that if a packet of cigarettes was sold for less than 5 it was almost certain they would be illegal/counterfeit or stolen.

- Contributing factors for the illicit trade of tobacco products included the governments fiscal policy, (i.e tax levels), and public tolerance of the illicit trade. Consumers were therefore interested in saving money irrespective of criminal actions taking place.

- UK Border Agency controlled imports entering the UK, however HM Revenue and Customs policed illegal imports once they were in the UK.

- HM Revenue and Customs worked alongside the Police, Crimestoppers, Tobacco Hotline and Trading Standards to try to eliminate the current problem.

- HM Revenue and Customs also had to deal with members of the public bringing back cigarettes/tobacco from abroad. Currently individuals returning to the UK had to demonstrate those goods were for personal use or gifts.

- Most tobacco products had an average shelf life of 12 months, a factor which was considered when individuals were found with commercial quantities of cigarettes.

- Tax gap figures for cigarettes were the most accurate to base information on when reporting on the success/decline of the illicit tobacco market. 2010-2011 saw the tax gap for cigarettes fall below 10% for the first time which indicated a decline in the illicit tobacco market.

- HM Revenue and Customs had seen successful outcomes by undertaking civil prosecutions to make it harder for 'tab houses' to operate.

- It was reported that there was approximately 145,000 illegal cigarettes seized in Stockton. HM Revenue and Customs were also targeting those who were operating further up the supply chain.

- Suppliers of illegal cigarettes were becoming more sophisticated when storing their stock. In the past they would store goods hidden in and around the home, however houses now were more likely to store the minimum stock which could limit the action undertaken. Remining stock was now generally stored remotely, i.e lock ups, garages, and trading estates, to avoid association and/or detection.

- Discussion took place as to the toxicity of 'cheap whites' versus imperial cigarettes. Although the 'cheap whites' may taste a little harsher than the imperial brands due to a lack of additives, there was no evidence to support cheap whites being more toxic.

- The Trading Standards and Licensing Manager informed the Committee that as the supply chain altered its behaviour to the action taken against it, the cost of enforcement for surveillance and magistrates needed to be taken into account prior to Members making recommendations. Most of those who were prosecuted would plead they had insufficient funds to pay any charges when found guilty.

Members requested information as to the future funding of FRESH NE. The Director of Public Health informed the Committee that Stockton Borough Council had committed to contribute 65K per annum for FRESH NE.

The Committee made the following suggestions for reducing access to cigarettes with the added benefit of making smoking less popular:

- Introduce tobacco licensing, anyone selling cigarettes without a license would be committing an offence.

- Make all school playgrounds smokefree.

- Stop smoking in cars with children in them.

- Ban patients and staff smoking within the grounds of local hospitals.

- Stop people smoking in and around public house doorways.

- Promote where the 'proceeds of crime' have helped the local community, so the positives of tackling these issues can be appreciated by the public.

The Committee also discussed the approach the NHS took when patients were admitted into hospital who were smokers, and how they could be encouraged to stop. The Stockton Public Health Improvement Partnership Manager informed the Committee that there were policies in place regarding admissions where nicotine replacement therapy was offered and patients were given the opportunity to enter into the Stop Smoking Services Programme.

The Committee requested additional information as follows:

- What powers did the local authority have when dealing with the issues mentioned above.

- The differences between illegal and cheap white cigarettes.
HCS
38/12
The Scrutiny Officer informed the Committee that the proposed timescales on the work plan required agreement.

Members were also informed that there would be one final report for both phases of the Review of Tobacco Control.
HCS
39/12
No Update.

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