Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards has seized more than 1 million illegal cigarettes in raids of shops across the county over the past 18 months.
Officers removed 1,008,660 counterfeit and non-duty cigarettes and almost 300kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco from the market during the period. The illicit products have a combined estimated value of £778,000.
The service has also been clamping down on illicit vapes, seizing 10,100 such devices with a combined value of £120,000.
In order to prevent the same businesses selling illegal products in the future, officers have also been working with the landlords of recurring problem shops to get the sellers evicted.
Jonathon Toy, Warwickshire County Council Service Manager Trading Standards and Community Safety said: “Whilst I am shocked by the sheer number of illegal cigarettes this service has seized in such a short period of time, I’m delighted that we are protecting the health of Warwickshire residents while we continue to disrupt the sale of these products and deprive their sellers and the organised crime groups they work for, of significant sums of money.
“The availability of illegal cigarettes, often sold at pocket money prices, makes it easier for children to start smoking and get hooked, and more difficult for existing smokers to quit their habit. We also know that sellers have strong links with criminal gangs and the money they make may end up supporting drug dealing, money laundering and people trafficking.
“We are also concerned by the availability of illegal vapes, and I’m pleased we are continuing to disrupt their sale in Warwickshire.”
All of the illegal products seized will be destroyed when any legal proceedings are concluded.