Illegal cigarettes find leads to newsagent losing licence

Councillors met to discuss the licence review at Worthing Town Hall
Councillors met to discuss the licence review at Worthing Town Hall

Hundreds of illegal cigarettes were found at a Worthing newsagent which later sold age-restricted products to an underage boy.

Trading Standards said products posing a ‘serious risk to public safety’ were found by a sniffer dog on the premises of Worthing News, in Rowlands Road, in July, weeks before a shop worker sold electronic cigarette liquid to a 16-year-old.

Worthing Borough Council’s licensing committee revoked the shop’s licence to sell alcohol on Tuesday.

The council has no control over the sale of tobacco – but councillors said the incidents did not promote licence holder Rawa Ahmed’s need to ensure public safety, prevention of crime and disorder and that children were protected from harm.

Trading Standards triggered a licence review after 780 cigarettes and 200g of rolling tobacco were found on July 31. They said the products, found in a jacket and carrier bag, were either counterfeit, failed safety tests or were incorrectly packaged.

Mr Ahmed told councillors: “They were for me. The tobacco was for my fiancée and my friend gifted it to us.”

Trading Standards questioned the owner’s account and said the products were from Belarus, Belgium and fakes made in the UK.

The discovery triggered a licence check which police said uncovered breaches of various conditions, including failing to keep a refusal log and training records.

PC Warren Jones noted Mr Ahmed was not listed as the shop’s designated premises supervisor.

He said this was not rectified until nine months after Mr Ahmed took over. Mr Ahmed said he made a genuine mistake and now kept proper records.

“I have serious concerns that the responsible person so young in their knowledge and training should fail so considerably in the application of the conditions of the licence of a premises he has only been running for seven months,” PC Jones said.

Trading Standards said it was focusing on Worthing as it was one of two ‘hotspots’ for illicit tobacco in West Sussex.