18,000 cigarettes and 11kg of tobacco seized in raids

Published Wednesday, 12th June 2019

seized products in bags

A joint operation has led to 18,000 illegal cigarettes and 11kg of illegal rolling tobacco being seized from shops in Southend.

Officers from the council’s Trading Standards team, HMRC, HM Immigration and Essex Police worked cohesively to proactively remove the illicit tobacco products from shops across the borough.

On Thursday 6 June, officers carried out unannounced checks on a number of shops as part of a crackdown on illegally imported and fake tobacco products being sold in Southend. The 18,000 cigarettes and 11kg of rolling tobacco will be destroyed and each of the businesses involved will face legal action.

Trading Standards officers often seek the support of specially trained sniffer dog units to pinpoint the exact location of illegal tobacco products in shops, with many guilty shop owners crafting highly elaborate concealments to hide the products, with only the dog’s keen sense of smell detecting the stash.

Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety and customer contact, said: “This is a big haul from our officers and is a great example of partnership working between all the agencies involved and I urge anyone who has information about the selling or storing of illicit tobacco to report it to us in confidence.

“Smokers are putting their lives at an even greater risk smoking illicit tobacco products due to the many additional ingredients that can be found in them, including rat droppings, dead insects and asbestos.

“We hope this serves a stark reminder that we will not just sit back whilst the public are being put at risk. We will continue to find and destroy any illegal tobacco products we find, and we will also push for large fines to those involved in the sale of these products.”

The premises raided included second hand goods stores, convenience stores and greengrocers. Additionally, a large amount of counterfeit household products were seized. A vehicle used by a shop for storing illegal tobacco and cigarettes was also seized by officers during the operation.

Anyone with any information regarding the sale of illegal products within the borough, please call 01702 215005 to report with confidentiality.

Dangers of illicit tobacco products

Smokers are putting their health at greater risk as Southend-on-Sea is swamped with illegal cigarettes and tobacco.

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.

And there are fears the trade is helping to fund terrorism and organised crime in the UK and abroad.

The sale of cheap tobacco and cigarettes undermines attempts to reduce the prevalence of smoking, and also makes it impossible for legitimate businesses to compete.

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.