Japan Tobacco International (JTI), the Benson & Hedges brand owner, has sent out a strong message to retailers that illegal tobacco will not be tolerated.

The company has ripped out tobacco gantries from two Berkshire stores after the retailers were prosecuted for selling illegal cigarettes. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) applauded JTI’s removal of gantries from Metro Food and Wine in Slough, and Quality Food & Wine in Reading.

An HMRC spokesman said: “We welcome action by JTI to withdraw support from retail outlets convicted for the sale of illicit tobacco.”

Paul Williams, UK head of corporate affairs at JTI, said, the company could not allow its display equipment to remain in the shops because of the offences committed.

“Retailers’ involvement in these dishonest crimes are totally unacceptable and more can be done to eradicate the sale of illegal tobacco.” He said every honest retailer should protect their business and local community from criminals who sold illegal tobacco. “To look the other way and do nothing is not acceptable,” Williams said.

He added the JTI was committed to supporting HMRC and Trading Standards and all three must work together to eradicate ”this trend”.