A joint operation undertaken this week in Swindon saw enforcement teams seize illegal tobacco and nicotine products worth approximately £40,000.
Led by Swindon Trading Standards, with assistance from HMRC, the operation also involved Swindon South Neighbourhood’s Policing Team, and three tobacco detection dogs. Officers focused on stores and vehicles, while an entry warrant was also used at a residential address. Trading Standards officers used test purchases and intelligence linking the premises or vehicles to the illicit tobacco trade.
Tobacco detection dogs identified two vehicles that contained illicit goods, one of the vehicles had to be entered by force. Vehicles that were found containing illicit goods were towed away. Shisha was also located for supply at one of the stores that was raided.
Councillor Jim Grant, Swindon Borough’s Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Joint Working, said: “We are determined to tackle the illegal tobacco trade as a Council and this latest operation has sadly highlighted that it remains a problem in Swindon.
“Illegal tobacco and e-cigarettes are not only really harmful to people’s heath, the money raised from the sale of such products often helps fund criminal gangs. This is unacceptable.
“I’d like to thank our partners at HMRC and Wiltshire Police for their continued support, as well as the local community who are our eyes and ears on the ground and supply us with invaluable information as we continue to tackle this problem.”
Divya Bassi, Public Health Specialist at Swindon Borough Council, said: “The availability of cheap illegal tobacco impacts most on more deprived communities, contributing to local health inequalities. In Swindon, we take tackling illegal tobacco and vapes very seriously and it is one of the key priorities in Swindon’s Tobacco Control Strategy 2023-2028.
Ben Hayes, Trading Standards Illegal tobacco regional lead, said: “The sale and supply of illegal tobacco funds serious and organised crime in and around your community, and people must think beyond it being a tax issue.
“All tobacco is dangerous, however some illegal cigarettes do not comply with safety laws and fail to extinguish if left unattended. This could increase the risk of a fire at home.
“The availability of cheap illegal tobacco also creates an unfair advantage to legitimate businesses. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution and report illegal tobacco sales.”