A significant quantity of illegal and counterfeit tobacco products have been uncovered and seized in Derby as part of a three day operation involving Derby City Council, Derbyshire police and Wagtail UK Ltd.

Buster the sniffer dog helps uncover a concealment of illicit tobacco
Buster the sniffer dog helps uncover a concealment of illicit tobacco

The intelligence led operation is part of an ongoing effort to disrupt the supply and sale of illicit tobacco products in Derby. Officers from the Council’s Trading Standards and Community Protection teams as well as Derbyshire police officers and tobacco search dogs joined forces to enter, search and seize illegal products from shops in Derby.

During the three day operation, eight shops were found to be in possession of illicit tobacco products.

In total, some 20,820 cigarettes and 7.5kgs of tobacco were sniffed out and seized – with an estimated street value of around £4,758.  Many had been concealed behind false walls, drawers and even in roof spaces. In one premises, garlic had been used in an attempt to stop the search dogs uncovering the tobacco.

The sale of illicit tobacco not only undermines the Public Health agenda to try and get people to quit smoking but due to its price and the criminality of the individuals involved, it makes it easier for vulnerable people and children as young as 10 and 11 to pick up the habit at ‘pocket money’ prices.

Richard Antcliff helping to search for concealed illicit tobacco.
Richard Antcliff helping to search for concealed illicit tobacco.

The lack of safety elements in foreign and fake cigarettes also puts those that purchase them at increased risk of house fires and even bigger health risks. Many fake tobacco products contain significantly higher levels of toxic substances and some products have been found to include rat droppings and mould.

In addition to the illicit tobacco and cash linked to their sale, police arrested one individual at a premise to confirm their immigration status and another individual was found to be working with no legal right to do so.

Richard Antcliff Director of Public Protection & Street Pride who joined the teams on the operation commented:

“We take the supply of illegal cigarettes very seriously and we will pursue those who sell them. Working in partnership with our police colleagues is essential to this work.

Not only does the selling of cheap illegal cigarettes undermine the legitimate businesses that operate in the same area but also presents a real safety hazard to those who buy them.

If you suspect illicit cigarettes and tobacco are being sold in a shop near you then I would encourage you to report this to us through the Citizens Advice and Consumer Services by calling 03454040506.”

Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant, Tony Owen, said:

“The sale of fake cigarettes is a serious issue that can fund criminality, cause serious health problems and take money away from legitimate businesses.

Anyone who sells illicit cigarettes should know that we carry out numerous multi-agency activities to crack down on this activity – and those who buy them are potentially playing Russian roulette with their life. You have no idea what could be in these cigarettes and their effect on you.

If you have any information regarding individuals selling fake cigarettes then you can contact, in confidence, the 101 non-emergency number and pass on information to help us stamp out the sale of these dangerous items.”