Investigators have seized 500 packets of illegal cigarettes and more than 712 illicit vapes being from nine Stoke-on-Trent shops in the latest crackdown.
According to local reports, the nine businesses raided in the crackdown remain under investigation by Trading Standards. Photographs taken from the raids show how items had been stuffed inside a wall in one of the premises where specialist sniffer dogs were drafted in.
Back in July, thousands of pounds worth of items were seized after city-wide raids which included premises in Stoke, Abbey Hulton and Meir.
Also in July and Staffordshire County Council targeted stores in Newcastle and the Moorlands with 33,000 illicit cigarettes confiscated alongside 658 illegal vapes and 4.48kg of hand rolling tobacco. The latest swoop saw officials seize 544 packs of illegal cigarettes, 712 vapes and 3.6kg of hand rolling tobacco.
The vapes – found at eight premises – had a retail value of £9,250 and were said to be above the legal tank size of 2ml. Some of those vapes were hidden in a ‘sliding table’. Meanwhile the tobacco had a value of £9,000 – with some packets found inside a wall at one of the premises.
Since April, Trading Standards in the city have seized £30,000 worth of illegal cigarettes and tobacco along with £40,000 worth of vapes. The operation saw Trading Standards link up with police, along with a ‘Tobacco Detection Team’ which included a sniffer dog supplied by Wagtails UK.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council says cheap tobacco makes it harder for smokers to quit – and encourages younger people to take up the habit. The authority has also pointed out the harm it causes to legitimate businesses in the Potteries.
Councillor Amjid Wazir says the sales of such items can fund criminality. The community leader, who is cabinet member for the environment and enforcement, said: “We’re cracking down on illegal tobacco and vapes in the city and are committed to keeping our residents safe by ensuring that consumers have access only to products.
“Illegal tobacco sales in the UK are funded by Organised Crime Gangs who see it as a low risk means of making large amounts of money, and the money is then used to fund other forms of criminality. This operation serves as a strong message to those engaging in illegal trade activities in which we are committed to upholding the rule of regulation and protecting the best interests of our community.”