Operation removes 20,000 illegal cigarettes off streets

Counter concealment.

Counter concealment.

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An operation on National No Smoking Day has seen West Yorkshire Trading Standards taking over 20,000 illicit cigarettes and over 6KG of illegal hand rolling tobacco.

The illegal products were seized during raids in Leeds, Wakefield, Dewsbury and Bradford and many of the seized items were hidden in concealments such as voids in walls and remote controlled hidden compartments. The value of the tobacco products, if genuine, would have been more than £11,500.

Operation Quit was planned to coincide with National No Smoking Day and aimed to crack down on the supply of illicit tobacco across the region. The operation targeted hot spot areas and businesses identified by analysing intelligence and complaints received by West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Buster and Alfie, both cocker spaniels, Murphy, a black labarador and Bertie a collie cross spaniel, provided by Wagtail UK helped detect the concealed stashes of tobacco at the 13 premises visited.

The seizures included counterfeit, non-duty paid and incorrectly labelled cigarettes and tobacco which cannot be legally sold in the UK. The raids were conducted as a result of information provided by the public. This operation brings the total number of illegal cigarettes removed from West Yorkshire’s streets by West Yorkshire Trading Standards to over half a million since April 2014.

David Lodge Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said “All tobacco is harmful, but the supply of illegal cigarettes seriously undermines the drive to reduce smoking, fuels organised criminality and is often a gateway for young people to becoming addicted to a habit which prematurely kills over half its users. Our message is clear to those involved in this illegal practice – there is no hiding place, and we operate a zero tolerance policy.”

Coun Bill Urry of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said “Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if hidden in the most unlikely places and offenders need to understand that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products and I would urge anyone with information about the supply of illicit tobacco to contact us via the Crimestoppers number 0800 555111.”