More than 85,000 fake cigarettes – plus 40kg of illicit rolling tobacco – have been seized in Doncaster in less than a year.
Trading Standards officers found the counterfeit smoking materials using dogs, who sniffed out some of the haul stashed behind secret doors and in hidden panels.
The illicit products discovered since April last year were worth an estimated £25,000.
A Doncaster Council spokesman said that many of the illegal cigarettes were ‘found in covert hiding places including secret doors and hidden panels accessed by remote control buttons and special levers.’
Coun Pat Knight, cabinet member for public health, said: “All tobacco is harmful but the easy availability of cheap, illegal cigarettes encourages people to start and continue smoking, particularly children who are often targeted by unscrupulous traders.
“Detection dogs can find tobacco products in the most unlikely places and in addition to having their stock confiscated offenders could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison.
“Our Trading Standards team is working hard to keep these illegal products off the streets and are cracking down on the businesses and individuals that flout the law.
“Anyone with information regarding the sale of illegal tobacco can call Citizens Advice consumer helpline in confidence on 03454 040506.”
The service found thousands of the illicit products were not marked with the correct safety warnings and that many of the cigarettes had no self-extinguishing mechanism to reduce the number of instances of accidental fire.
Additionally, officers said that because the products were counterfeit there was no ‘traceable way of knowing what the products contain.’
The clampdown on Doncaster’s illicit cigarette trade comes as part of a campaign from the council’s Public Health department to reduce the disproportionately high number of smokers in Doncaster.
The department is also hoping to achieve this by supporting people in their efforts to give up the habit by signposting relevant services and through smokers being encouraged to quit by their local GP.
A report that went before the Health and Overview Scrutiny Panel at the local authority stated the town is ‘one of the worst areas in England’ for the number of smoking-related hospital admissions.
There are around 54,000 adults across the borough who smoke, which works out as 22.7 per cent of the population.
The compares with an average of 20.1 per cent of the population in Yorkshire and the Humber, and 18 per cent in England.