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Thousands of illegal cigarettes seized in operation

Published: Wednesday, 28th July 2021

A total of £8,500 worth of illegal tobacco has been confiscated from premises in the city centre.

The haul was removed from shops in Hanley following a joint operation by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s trading standards team and Staffordshire Police accompanied by a tobacco dog detection team from Wagtails UK.

Illegal tobacco was found at both premises visited as part of the Operation CeCe crackdown. This is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco. At one of the two shops, illegal tobacco was found concealed in a hidden compartment accessed from the outside of the premises. In total, over 15,000 cigarettes and 2kg of hand-rolling tobacco were seized, with a genuine retail value of over £8,500.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Public Health at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco creates a cheap source of tobacco for children and young people and harms businesses that are trading legally. It also undermines all of the good work being done to stop people smoking and the illegal tobacco trade more often than not has strong links to other criminal activity.

“We will always take action against anyone found to be involved in the storage, distribution or supply of illegal tobacco and full investigations have now been launched into these seizures. It’s another great result for our Trading Standards team, working alongside their partners at the police and immigration. The message is clear – you will face consequences if you deal in these illegal products.

Sergeant Paul Housley from Staffordshire Police’s Neighbourhood Tasking Team said: “We take the trading of illegal goods incredibly seriously and will continue to support our colleagues within Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s trading standards team in cracking down on this type of activity.

“This partnership work is vital in ensuring we stop counterfeit goods from reaching our streets and from harming our communities.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.”