Staffordshire Trading Standards has seized more than 16,000 illicit cigarettes, 7.4kg of illicit tobacco and 186 illegal vapes in a series of Operation CeCe-supported investigations.
With assistance from specialist tobacco detection dogs supplied by BWY Canine, Officers visited three premises in Stafford and Stone on 24 October and discovered stashes of the illicit goods concealed in sophisticated hiding places.
Along with detection dogs Cooper, Bran and Griff, the Staffordshire Trading Standards team were accompanied by Staffordshire Police and the Immigration Compliance and Enforcement team.
Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council, said: “Removing illegal tobacco and vapes from the marketplace is a priority for our Trading Standards service and this was yet another successful operation.
“Shops selling these products will do anything to keep their illegal trade hidden from our officers but with the help of sniffer dogs like Cooper, there’s no hiding place.”
Specialist dog handler, Stuart Philips from BWY Canine, said: “I’ve been working closely with the Trading Standards team for many years now and we’ve had a lot of success in taking illegal products off the market.
“Sellers will try all sorts of tricks and distraction techniques to put dogs off, including using garlic and bleach, but it doesn’t work.”
Operation CeCe was set up by HMRC and National Trading Standards (NTS) to stub out illicit tobacco sales. NTS Chair Lord Michael Bichard said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”
Last year in Staffordshire, Trading Standards seized more than one million illicit cigarettes worth around £515,000 and 116.34kg of hand rolling tobacco worth almost £35,000. In the same period the team seized almost 10,000 illegal vapes worth more than £128,000. So far this year alone, they have already seized almost 9,000.