Illegal cigarettes worth Â£10,000 were seized by trading standards officers in a series of planned raids on ten retail premises across Birmingham yesterday (24 November 2014).
Teams of officers targeted shops and off licences in west Birmingham using two sniffer dogs, as part of a continued crackdown on the sale of illicit tobacco â€“ products which have been smuggledÂ in, illegally produced or for which no duty has been paid.
Birmingham City Councilâ€™s trading standards officers working with local police teams, also seized 120 packets of illegal hand-rolling tobacco with an estimated street value of Â£1,800.
Illegal tobacco products were found at three of the ten premises, the majority of the haul was found at one premise. Â Cigarettes and tobacco were hidden under fridges and in roof spaces in the cellar in an attempt to avoid detection. All products will be destroyed in due course.
The sniffer dogs used in these raids were provided by BWY Canine Specialist Search Dogs.
This exercise follows the success of Operation Henry, which successfully seized illegal tobacco products with a street value of more than Â£57,000 during raids earlier this year.
The illegal products seized included counterfeit and cheap foreign labelled products that breach consumer protection legislation and are also non-duty paid; these cannot be legally sold in the UK.
The contents of all cigarettes are harmful and contain around 4,000 different chemicals, including known carcinogens. However, as the provenance of illegal tobacco is unknown it may contain further dangerous ingredients.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city councilâ€™s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: â€œThese raids have successfully taken around Â£11,800 worth of illegal tobacco out of circulation.
â€œThose involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. This activity also brings crime into our neighbourhoods, which is why it is important to clamp down on it.Â This also has an impact on those businesses that are trading legally.
â€œThe detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.â€
Birmingham City Councilâ€™s Trading Standards Service continues to focus on intelligence led inspections to stamp out the illegal supply and is working with their partners in HMRC and West Midlands Police to focus their activities.
Investigations will continue and may result in legal action.
Notes to editors:
The value of this seizure is calculated based on the figures below:
- 1,350 packs of 20 cigarettes (27,000 individual cigarettes) were seized.
- The average price of a pack of 20, sold at a genuine retail price, is Â£7.50
- 120 packs of rolling tobacco.
- The average price of a pack is around Â£15, if sold at a genuine retail price.
In 2013/14, Birmingham City Council carried out 110 inspections on a variety of retailers, seizing approximately 22,000 cigarettes and 17.5kg of rolling tobacco.
Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer, causing one in four deaths from cancer.
Overall 100,000 deaths are caused by tobacco each year in the UK.