Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards has seized illegal tobacco and vapes worth £24,000 in a series of raids on shops in the county.
The enforcement action was part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle the supply and sale of illegal tobacco.
The three raids, which took place at premises in Lichfield and Stafford last month, resulted in the seizure of 29,100 illicit cigarettes, 0.55kg of illicit hand rolling tobacco and 2,064 illegal vapes. The items were discovered hidden in flats above the premises, ready to be sold to consumers.
Trading Standards Officers were supported by Staffordshire Police and a specialist dog search team.
Philip White, Deputy Leader at Staffordshire County Council said: “It’s been a busy few months for our Trading Standards officers, who continue to work with partner agencies to take these harmful products off the streets.
“The availability of illegal tobacco and e-cigarettes in Staffordshire is no greater than anywhere else but it does remain a concern for our officers.
“We are also seeing a steady increase in seizures of counterfeit and oversized vapes and those under a recall. Since April 2022, our officers have seized over 9,684 illegal products with a street value of £128,106. Many of these products could have ended up in the hands of children, so it’s good that they have been removed from the market.
“In the UK, it is estimated that about 1 in 10 of all cigarettes and half of all hand-rolling tobacco are not duty paid. The illegal trade in tobacco also has strong links to organised crime and illicit tobacco can have a devastating effect on health.”
In the last financial year (April 2022 to March 2023), Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service have uncovered around 1,006,000 illegal cigarettes and 116kg of illegal tobacco with an estimated street value of £325,000.