Tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes and 10 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco was been seized from Burton shops on Saturday.
Staffordshire County Council trading standards officers, aided by sniffer dogs, visited shops in Burton on February 10. Four premises were targeted as part of an intelligence-led operation, with illicit tobacco found in two of them.
In total, they found approximately 43,500 cigarettes, believed to be counterfeit or illegal and over 10kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco.
It was the latest in a series of countywide visits by the trading standards team. Trading standards officers, who were supported by Staffordshire Police, are now considering further enforcement action. Cigarettes uncovered are thought to have been illegally imported and previously supplied at the shops.
Staffordshire County Council’s communities leader Gill Heath said:
Our trading standards team responded to intelligence and successfully disrupted the supply of potentially dangerous tobacco and cigarettes in Staffordshire. This is part of our ongoing operation to tackle the sale of illicit and counterfeit tobacco. The use of sniffer dogs in these operations is vital to their success.
Counterfeit sales also damage businesses and can fund criminal gangs. We are always grateful to people who report suspected sales of illicit tobacco – the information they give really can make a difference.
Some shop owners had gone to great lengths to conceal the illegal tobacco.”
Illegal tobacco products can usually be easily recognised. They will be very cheap, often less than half the price of legitimate packets and often have foreign writing on them.
Counterfeit tobacco is damaging to people’s health and can undermine smoking cessation efforts as it is usually sold at a cheaper price. In addition, illicit cigarettes can be a fire risk as they do not self-extinguish when left to burn as legitimate cigarettes do.
Far from being a victimless crime, illegal tobacco trade creates a cheap source for children and young people. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, makes it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free. The loss to the tax payer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS.’’
Collin Singer, managing director of Wagtail UK Ltd which also provided detection dogs, said:
Sniffer dogs remain the quickest and most effective method of detected a scent. We’re pleased to have been able to support Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team in another successful illegal tobacco enforcement operation.
Our dogs are top crime fighters and have detected hundreds of thousands of illegal cigarettes and tonnes of tobacco between them.”
Two foreign nationals were arrested and handed to immigration enforcement officers.
Anyone with information on illicit tobacco sales can contact the trading standards team confidentially on 01785 330356.