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13,000 illegal cigarettes and 14kg of tobacco seized in Southend raids

Published Wednesday, 14th February 2018

Variety of tobacco products

A total of 13,000 illegal cigarettes and 14kg of illegal rolling tobacco have been seized from shops in Southend as part of a joint operation between the Council’s Trading Standards and Essex Police.

Assisted by a specialist sniffer dog unit, Trading Standards and Essex Police officers carried out unannounced checks on a number of shops in the town on 7 February 2018, as part of a crackdown on illegally imported and fake tobacco products being sold in the Borough.

The illegal consignments will now be destroyed and each of the businesses faces legal ramifications.

Trading Standards frequently have to use trained tobacco search dogs to hunt for the tobacco, because highly elaborate concealments are often constructed to hide the illegal tobacco and cigarettes. Only the dog’s keen sense of smell can pinpoint the hidden stash.

One of the premises raided was a second hand goods store and along with the tobacco and cigarettes, a number of unsafe electrical items were also seized. Unsafe second hand electrical items are a risk to the user because of potential electrical shock, but also the major potential fire risk these product present.

The Trading Standards team have secured a number of recent prosecutions for similar offences, with large financial penalties being issued by the courts, in addition the latest case resulted in a custodial sentence for a Southend business owner.

Cllr Tony Cox, Executive Councillor for Transport, Waste and Regulatory Services, said: “Rat droppings, dead insects, asbestos and other harmful ingredients are being mixed with poor quality tobacco to be sold off as genuine branded products at a fraction of the legal price, putting smokers at even greater risk in the Borough. The sale of cheap tobacco and cigarettes undermines attempts to reduce the prevalence of smoking, makes it impossible for legitimate businesses to compete, and there are also genuine fears the trade is helping to fund terrorism and organised crime in the UK and abroad.

“That is why I am so pleased our small Trading Standards team, made up of highly dedicated officers are working with the police and achieving such big successes like this and protecting the consumer. Following a number of recent prosecutions, the success of this operation is growing, and to seize such a large quantity of illicit goods is excellent news.

“We have more work to do, but let this serve as a warning to those who put others’ lives at risk by dealing with illicit tobacco. We are working continuously to protect the lives of residents and visitors to the town and I would like to thank the diligence of the Trading Standards team and our partners at Essex Police.

The counterfeit cigarettes are usually manufactured without the self-extinguishing properties of genuine cigarettes and as a consequence pose a greater fire risk, that in some cases have been linked to deaths.