SNIFFER dogs have been helping detect stores of illegal tobacco in raids carried out by Denbighshire’s Trading Standards Officers.
Officers were assisted by North Wales Police and representatives Imperial Tobacco and local company, Wagtail UK Ltd of Mostyn, Flintshire, provided trained tobacco detection dogs.
Two premises, which have not been identified, were visited and almost 3,000 cigarettes and over 5 kg of rolling tobacco were found, worth an estimated £2,000. The haul included possible counterfeit and illicit tobacco products which cannot be legally sold in the UK.
The low price and easy availability of illegal tobacco encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders.
The dogs help to find tobacco which traders often conceal in unusual places such as hidden compartments and seemingly-empty product boxes.
David Smith, Lead Member for Public Realm said: "We react to intelligence received from the public, and the success of this week's operation shows that even the smallest piece of intelligence can make all the difference.
"Smoking is one of the biggest causes of ill health and illicit tobacco makes a serious issue worse because the controls on safety standards, which apply to legitimate traders, are not carried out.
"This type of trade also affects the economy as a whole: locally, retailers cannot trade fairly and are disadvantaged and in terms of the wider economy, duty is not being paid and this has an impact on all of our services.
"The Council is committed to developing the local economy and therefore we will work to ensure all businesses can operate on a level playing field."
Emlyn Jones, Public Protection Manager added: "These trained tobacco detection dogs are a valuable tool in helping us locate hidden illegal tobacco. People should think twice about buying from such sources as the trade is unregulated with no controls on the manufacture and distribution of the product and there is often links to other illegal activity. This matter will now be fully investigated before deciding on any action."
PC Les Jones, the Denbighshire Partnerships Officer with North Wales Police, said: “Not only does this trade harm the local community it often has links to wider criminal activity. We shall therefore continue to work with our partners to disrupt this illegal trade.
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco should call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 (03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language) or the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.