Illegal tobacco worth almost £60,000 has been confiscated from retailers across the region following a series of operations.
Led by Devon, Plymouth, Somerset, and Torbay Trading Standards and supported by HM Revenue and Customs and the police, the seizures were part of a three-day operation to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco.
In total 156,840 cigarettes (7,842 Packets of 20) and 36.25Kgs of hand rolling tobacco (725 x 50g pouches) were seized from retailers across the service area.
In addition, shisha, valued at £3,070, was also seized.
Acting on intelligence officers discovered the illegal tobacco with the assistance of trained sniffer dogs.
The seizures were part of Operation CeCe, a larger National Trading Standards partnership with HM Revenue and Customs aimed at tackling illegal tobacco.
Investigations are ongoing.
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s cabinet Member for trading standards said: “Many people think that buying cheap tobacco and cigarettes is a victimless crime, but it is not.
“Smoking remains one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death, and the availability of illegal tobacco, sold at considerably below the price of legal product, makes it much harder for people to give up and remain smoke free.
“Illegal tobacco is at pocket money prices, making it easier for children and young people to buy, start smoking and develop a habit, especially as the criminals selling it are not interested in who they sell it to.”
Paul Thomas Head of Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards, said: “This is a great result and removes a large quantity of illegal tobacco from our street.
“We know that the availability of cheap, illegal tobacco undermines action to reduce smoking rates and enables young people to start smoking. We are also aware that the trade in illegal tobacco, which is often counterfeit, is used by organised crime groups to raise funds for their criminal activity.”
Exeter Sector Inspector Simon Arliss of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “Working in partnership is key to tackling crime in the city. The intelligence provided by the community and shared with Trading Standards and HMRC has led to this successful operation. It sends out a message, to those who would commit such crime, that the local community will not tolerate it. We will be conducting similar operations in the months ahead.”
Support on these raids was provided by the South West Illegal Tobacco Team, hosted by Trading Standards South West, who specialise in illegal tobacco enforcement across the region. To make an anonymous and confidential report about illegal tobacco please use one of the following gateways:
- Facebook: @SWIllegalTobacco
- Twitter: @SWIllegalTobac
- Instagram: SouthWestIllegalTobacco