Officers seize 30,000 illegal cigarettes in city raids

By on 22/06/2017 in News, Partnerships
Trading Standards officer  Mohammed Tariq with illegal cigarettes seized.

Trading Standards officer Mohammed Tariq with the illegal cigarettes

Trading Standards officers seized illegal cigarettes worth £7,500 in a series of planned raids on six shops in Birmingham yesterday (21 June 2017).

Birmingham City Council’s trading standards team worked with West Midlands Police on an intelligence-led exercise, following reports of illegal tobacco and cigarettes being supplied in a number of premises.

Officers were assisted by sniffer dogs provided by BWY Canine Specialist Search Dogs, who helped uncover illegal cigarettes hidden behind false walls and light fittings, under counters and even in boxes of biscuits.

The seizure also included packs of suspected counterfeit and cheap foreign labelled cigarettes, which breach consumer protection legislation and are non-duty paid, therefore cannot be legally sold in the UK.  Individuals involved in supplying illegal tobacco are very often involved in much wider criminality.

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 other dangerous ingredients.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Illegal cigarettes were found at all six shops visited during this  operation, and as a result Trading Standards have taken  30,000 illegal cigarettes out of circulation, worth around £7,500.

“Those 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 we tackle this as it also impacts on businesses that are trading legally.

“The 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.”

Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards Service continues to focus on intelligence-led inspections to stamp out the illegal supply and will continue to work with their partners to focus their activities.

Investigations will continue and may result in legal action. Where premises have a licence to sell alcohol,  reviews will be considered with a view to ask for licences to be revoked.

Sellers are warned that where illegal products are found that Trading Standards will commence investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.


Notes to editors:

The value of this seizure is calculated based on the figures below:

  • 1,500 packs of 20 cigarettes (30,000 individual cigarettes) were seized.
  • The average price of a pack of 20 sold illegally is around £5.

2016/17 outcomes:

Trading Standards officers seized 2,137,460 cigarettes during 2016/17- which equates to 106,873 packets of 20 – and 250 pouches of hand rolling tobacco with a street value of about £500,000.

During this period, Trading Standards received more than 80 complaints alleging sales of illicit tobacco from retail premises, which resulted officers carrying out over 60 inspections / advice visits.

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