A Trading Standards crackdown has seen sniffer dogs find 65 packs of suspected illegal tobacco and £1,780 in crime proceeds.Advertisement
The operation in Preston and Chorley saw the dogs work with Lancashire County Council and police to find the haul of potentially counterfeit and non-duty-paid tobacco products, which were incorrectly labelled and cannot be legally sold in the UK.
Sniffer dogs are highly trained and helped to find tobacco concealed in unusual places such as hidden compartments and seemingly empty product boxes.
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County Councillor Peter Buckley, the cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “These fraudsters use every trick to conceal illicit tobacco.
“It’s often very tricky to find and usually hidden in secret compartments or stashed away in a corner or somewhere where it’s difficult to get at.
“It’s a much easier job for the sniffer dogs to find it. They pick up the scent and can root it out in minutes, making the job easier for our Trading Standards officers and the police.”
Councillor Buckley said the sale and manufacture of illegal tobacco hurt legitimate local businesses, with the proceeds used to fund other criminal activities, and has health implications for communities and young people.
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The council said they must regularly act on intelligence received from the public, with the smallest piece of information often proving vital.
County Councillor Sue Whittam, the lead member for health, said: “Illicit tobacco is a health concern, and it’s important we do all we can to stop its sale.
“The low price and availability of these illegal products encourage people to keep smoking, with children and young people often targeted by unscrupulous traders.
“These trading standards crackdowns are crucial and send out the clear message that we will not tolerate illegal tobacco sales in Lancashire.”
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In the last six months, the Trading Standards team has prosecuted 11 cases involving the sale of illicit tobacco and issued three written warnings relating to counterfeit tobacco.
PC Lena Garnham of the Chorley Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “This operation has been about targeting specific shops linked to the sale of illicit tobacco in Preston and Chorley.
“Illicit products such as these could damage public health as the chemicals added to these products aren’t monitored or licensed.
“The people making money from this do not care who they sell to. Children and young smokers are often targeted by people who sell illegal cigarettes, making it easier to get hooked on smoking.
“The availability makes it harder for people to quit and remain smoke-free. We would urge anyone that knows someone involved in selling illicit tobacco to get in touch so we can safely remove these products off the streets.”
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Those with information on the sale of illegal tobacco should call the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111 or report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 0808 232 1133.
The public can also report it via the Trading Standards Scambuster Stan page –https://www.facebook.com/StanleyDards
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