Video. Billions of illegal cigarettes are brought into the UK every year - either smuggled in without tax being paid, or counterfeit ones made cheaply abroad by organised criminal gangs. Many end up in the South East - in shops on our high streets at cut price, tempting smokers.
Often these cigarettes contain level of chemicals and tar that break health rules. Now, in one part of Kent, dog detectives are helping to catch the unscrupulous traders behind the problem as Nashreen Issa explains.
Border Force officers have foiled an attempt to smuggle 30 million cigarettes into the UK through the port of Southampton.
The haul was made after a container shipped from China, supposed to be carrying wind turbine parts, was stopped.
The container was scanned in an x-ray machine that showed cigarettes inside.
Two further containers were found to be linked to the first one. Together they had a total of 19.4 million Lambert & Butlers and 10.9 million Regal cigarettes, all of which are believed to be counterfeit.
Andy Lumb, from Border Force, said: “This was cigarette smuggling on an industrial scale so I am delighted that our officers have prevented this haul of contraband from reaching our streets.
“Tobacco smuggling is not victimless. It is effectively stealing from the public purse, at a time when the country can least afford it."
It's thought if the haul had not been intercepted it would have cost the Treasury about £8,064,000 in unpaid excise duty.
Newsagents and supermarkets are being advised to review security measures, following a series of high value cigarette thefts in Southampton. Acting Sergeant Russell Smith, of Southampton Central, said: “We are advising local businesses to ensure they have adequate security measures in place "
One Midanbury business installed ground bolts on exterior shutters after two cigarette burglaries in April. They lost £30,000 of stock. A third attempt on June 28 was unsuccessful because of the bolts.
Any business owners who want crime prevention advice from police can contact 101 to ask for a visit from crime prevention officers. Police also would like to hear from anyone who has information about these thefts or who has been offered low price cigarettes or items they suspect are stolen.
DC Katie Wakefield, said: “I am appealing to any local residents who saw or heard a vehicle speeding from the area. I am also appealing for anyone who may have seen anyone in the area, matching the descriptions of the offenders."
At around 2.15am on Friday, March 2nd, three men smashed a lower glass panel in the door of the Co-op, Locks Heath Centre and climbed through the hole, into the shop. They broke the shutters of the cigarette kiosk and bundled all the cigarette stock into a builder's bag.