Thousands of cigarettes and almost seven kilos of tobacco have been seized from shops in Darlington as part of a national trading standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.
Operation CeCe saw our trading standards team join forces with Durham Police and two tobacco detection dogs, Yoyo and Cooper for a day of action earlier this week.
On Tuesday (10 October) they visited eight shops across the town and carried out searches with the detection dogs, from BWY Canine Ltd, to find hidden tobacco and cigarettes.
“In one shop products had been concealed in a chimney breast and by a shelving unit. An electronic opening and closing mechanism would reveal the cigarettes," said Shaun Trevor, who led the operation on behalf of trading standards.
“In other shops, there were light fittings on magnets which when lowered revealed a ceiling void used to store these illegal goods.
“Our trading standards team has worked very hard with partners to help keep these illegal products off our streets," said Councillor Jonathan Dulston, deputy leader of Darlington Borough Council.
"The sale of illicit tobacco places smokers at even greater heath risk, as these products are not regulated in the same way as the brand they claim to be.
“The sale of these products directly funds organised crime, so it’s simply not possible to overstate the importance of this kind of work.
Tobacco in the UK must be sold in plain packaging, but trading standards officers are seeing counterfeit plain packaged tobacco entering the market, as well as more colourful packaging intended for non-UK markets.
The sale of illicit tobacco products also hits the public purse as duty is not paid.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said:
"The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.