Newham Council’s Trading Standards recently teamed up with “Lilly” and “Billy”, specialist detection dogs from “Wagtails”, to track down and seize illegal tobacco worth £25,000.
Newham Trading Standards Officers visited retail premises in Newham as part of a joint operation with “Wagtails” where a major illegal tobacco haul was uncovered.
Over the course of the weekend’s activities in late July, a total of 13 businesses were visited, with six found to have illicit or non-compliant products.
20,000 illegal cigarettes were taken off the streets, as well as, 150 oversized vapes, 300 packets of chewing tobacco, 100g of hand-rolling tobacco, and other non-compliant or illicit products, which had a value of £25,000.
The crackdown was part of Operation CeCe, a national campaign focusing on joint work between National Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs.
Most of the tobacco was non-duty paid and is suspected to have been smuggled into the country. A proportion was believed to be counterfeit popular brands, which are likely to contain harmful substances and may not self-extinguish, making them an added fire hazard.
The continued efforts to tackle the illicit trade have been made possible as a result of funding support that Newham Trading Standards has received from National Trading Standards (NTS), Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), London Trading Standards (LTS), and Public Health.
The investigations remain ongoing, and the seized products will now be fully assessed as part of the inquiries to determine the offences committed.
Anyone prosecuted and convicted of selling or supplying illegal tobacco can face penalties including up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Councillor Amar Virdee, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Crime said, “A number of unscrupulous traders are going to extreme lengths to evade illicit tobacco detection”. The number of concealments that are being identified is increasing at an alarming rate. The unprecedented uptake of illicit tobacco and unsafe products is of great concern as there appears to be a link between the surge in illicit trade and the current cost of living crisis”.
“We will continue to stamp out illicit supplies and protect the health of our residents. Decisive action, continued disruption, and consistent enforcement activity are essential to break the illicit trade. We must all work together to prevent organised crime from blighting our communities nationwide.
“I commend our Trading Standards service for their continued efforts to keep harmful substances and products out of the borough. Newham Council’s Public Health team have also been instrumental in the support they have provided in the fight to protect the health of residents and visitors of the borough,” he added.