9th April 2024

Huge tobacco seizure in Devon

Heart of the South West Trading Standards have seized £166,000 worth of suspected illicit tobacco and vapes.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

More than 18,000 suspected illegal tobacco products and 2,000 illegal vapes have been seized by Officers from Heart of the South West Trading Standards and Devon and Cornwall Police in a recent operation.

Officers from Heart of the South West Trading Standards and Devon and Cornwall Police during the raid (image credit: Devon and Cornwall Police)

The illicit goods, which have a combined estimated value of more than £166,000, were found in a rural location in the South Hams district of Devon.

Specially trained tobacco detection dogs assisted in the discovery, and a number of people are under investigation by the Trading Standards team, whose enquiries remain ongoing.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, said: “The removal of illegal tobacco and vapes from entering the marketplace is a high priority for us, and this was yet another successful operation. The service uses detection dogs during operations, so regardless of where it is hidden, in a storage container or retail premises, the dogs have the ability to sniff out even small quantities of tobacco that are hidden from view.

A sample of the suspected illegal cigarettes found (image credit: Devon and Cornwall Police)

“Retail outlets that sell counterfeit and illicit tobacco are big business and these shops can undercut other local general stores who are trying to operate legally during difficult economic conditions. Because the tobacco is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested in asking for proof of age, it encourages children and young people to start smoking. Illegal tobacco products also present a genuine health risk above and beyond that of legal tobacco, as they aren’t subject to the same quality control checks and are often found to contain high level of contaminates.”

Inspector Ben Shardlow, who heads up the neighbourhood police teams in South Hams, said: “These illegal goods do not go through regulated safety testing and quality control procedures like the legal products that are sold in the UK do, which means we don’t know what’s in them. Carrying out this proactive warrant shows great partnership working and has resulted in identifying a significant amount of illegal goods – it is positive we were able to remove a large amount from the streets and circulation.

“I’d like to urge members of the public to report concerns to us so we can continue to disrupt illegal and criminal activity, just as we have done in the South Hams. Your reports and information really do make a difference in our investigations.”

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