Cigarettes and alcohol seized in Safer 6 operation

Published 4th October 2017

Councillor Eling with some of the seized cigarettes

Sandwell trading standards officers have seized more than 150,000 illegal tobacco products along with four suspected bottles of counterfeit vodka with a retail value of more than £15,000.

The illegal cigarettes and rolling tobacco were discovered in West Bromwich and Rowley Regis.

 The raids - part of an intelligence-led operation co-ordinated by the council’s trading standards team with the help of West Midlands Police - hit four shops as part of the annual Safer 6 campaign.

 The raids were supported by a specialist tobacco detection dog from Wagtail UK Ltd.

The concealed stashes of illegal tobacco, uncovered by the detection dog, were in various areas at the premises including behind a fuse box, in crisp boxes and behind a false wall.
 
The traders concerned will now be subject to formal investigations by trading standards and risk facing criminal prosecution which could result in an unlimited fine and/or 10 years imprisonment.

Bob Charnley, Sandwell trading standards and licensing manager, said: “People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others, especially children and young adults, to smoke.
 
 "All tobacco is harmful but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes makes it harder for smokers to quit.

"Our trading standards officers are working hard to keep these illegal products off the streets and are cracking down on the businesses and individuals that flout the law."

Inspecting the recovered goods, Councillor Steve Eling, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if it is hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.

“Retailers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach, adapting their methods in order to avoid detection but our message is, with the use of tobacco sniffer dogs, you may hide it, but we will find it.”

Councillor Eling added: “Seizing illegal products is only one of the tools we use. Officers use a range of interventions ranging from penalties to prosecutions to encourage compliance and maximise deterrent.

“In addition, when illicit tobacco is found on licensed premises, traders also risk losing their licence to sell alcohol.”

It’s estimated then illegal tobacco trade costs taxpayers about £2 billion per year in lost revenue and is known to fund organised crime networks and criminal gang activity.

In addition, about 80,000 people die from smoking-related diseases each year in England alone, costing the overstretched NHS an estimated £2 billion.

Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other type of illicit goods should report the details to Trading Standards by calling the Confidential Fakes Hotline on 0300 303 2636 or visit the Sandwell trading standards webpage.