A retired Spalding trader has been recognised for her commitment to exposing the sale of illegal and counterfeit cigarettes.
Julie Grant of Swineshead has earned a Hero Award from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute after campaigning against unlawful tobacco, estimated to be costing the UK about £2 billion annually in lost tax revenues.
The black market in tobacco was investigated by our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, on Thursday when it was revealed that illegal cigarette sales in the UK went up by 48 per cent between 2013 and 2014.
Julie, who retired last August after 24 years of running Butters outdoor and workwear shop, said: “Over the past year, I have been working closely with Lincolnshire Trading Standards to tell my story in the hope that people will realise the true dangers of illegal cigarettes.
“Up until three years ago, the truth behind these ‘cheap’ cigarettes my mum (June Buffham) smoked was not widely known as they are not regulated by the European Union.
“But they do not come up to our safety standards and if anyone has any information about these cigarettes and where they are available, I would urge them to come forward.”
Mrs Buffham, who was 71, died when fire engulfed her home in Spalding after an illegal cigarette failed to self-extinguish and fell onto the armchair she was sitting in on April 15, 2012.
Julie said: “After my mum’s death and with backing from my dad, I decided that something good had to come from the pain I was going through.
“It has not been easy to share my story as I relive my mum’s death on a daily basis, but Lincolnshire Trading Standards has been a wonderful support to me in my campaign and its officers are constantly working to get this trade stopped.”
Emma Milligan, principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “I am delighted that Julie has got this recognition from the work she has done campaigning against illegal cigarettes.
“We know it is hard for people to talk about their experiences, particularly when they have lost a family member, but we know that by telling her story, Julie has made a real difference in that people are coming forward and reporting sightings of illegal cigarettes in Lincolnshire.
“From this intelligence, we can target and raid premises and confiscate these goods, thereby protecting other members of the public.”