Illegal cigarettes worth nearly £60,000 were seized by trading standards officers in a series of planned raids on retail premises across Nottinghamshire.
A task force set up by Nottinghamshire County Council to combat the problem of counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes in the county has seized £58,529 worth of illicit tobacco and raided a total of 49 premises since its May launch.
The team, which is made of two trading standards officers, has so far carried out 13 raids on shops in Mansfield, Sutton, Hucknall, Netherfield and Stapleford, as well as four houses in Worksop, Newark and Gedling.
They have seized a total of 5,588 cigarettes packs and 39.5kg loose tobacco with an estimated street value of £58,529.
Coun Alice Grice, Vice-Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Safety Committee, said: “Our hard work is paying off but we know we have a lot more to do to shrink this illegal trade, which is making it cheaper for people to smoke and targets children and young people.
“Our recent tests also prove that illegal cigarettes have the potential to cause a serious house fire so we urge residents not to put their family’s lives at risk by purchasing such products.
“We mean business – there is a high risk that traders of counterfeit cigarettes will get caught and we will prosecute if we find them selling these goods.”
Sniffer dogs have been used on many of the raids and helped to unearth stashes of illegal cigarettes in hoovers, shelving units, and under removable tiles, floors and stairs, and within the workings of fridges.
A Sutton-Ashfield seller has received a four-month suspended sentence, and around £1,300 in fines and a total of 560 hours of community punishment orders have been handed out to sellers for illicit tobacco sales by the courts so far. A further ten suspected sellers are due in court shortly.
There has also been a rise in people reporting illicit tobacco sales since the team was set up.
Cheap illegal tobacco products conflict with the Government’s national strategy to limit demand by keeping the price of tobacco high and make it harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.
Genuine cigarettes are designed to extinguish when not inhaled – the tested cigarettes kept alight when not smoked.
Anyone with information about people selling counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes in their area should call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.
Anyone wanting to stop smoking can contact their local stop smoking service through their GP or community pharmacy or through New Leaf on 0800 389 7712 or text ‘leaf’ free to 80800 for Nottinghamshire residents outside of Bassetlaw, or 0800 3288 553 for the Bassetlaw Stop Smoking Services.