Council sniffs out more than £6000 in illicit tobacco from traders

Canine 'Cooper' identifies harmful illegal products at three locations

Sniffer dog Cooper

On Monday 6 July, Southampton City Council’s Trading Standards Service conducted an illegal tobacco operation at two shops and a secure storage unit in Southampton. They were assisted by officers of Hampshire Constabulary and B.W.Y. Canine Ltd, who provided a tobacco detection dog, named 'Cooper.'

With Cooper's help, council officers seized a total of 519 packets of illicit cigarettes and tobacco, with a value of approximately £6,000.

Some of the seized products were smuggled into the country illegally , while others were completely counterfeit. These illegal tobacco products may have been made in other countries for sale in the UK, or made in the UK in illegal warehouses with no safety standards.

Cllr Dave Shields, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, said:

"Counterfeit tobacco is not only illegal, but can be hazardous to your health. Tests of previous seizures of illicit tobacco have shown that a pack of loose tobacco contains contaminants like asbestos, rat droppings, dead insects and human excrement.

"When you buy illegal tobacco, you may also be helping more serious organised crime linked to the sales of illicit tobacco. For instance, a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes purchased in some countries costs £1.21. These packets are then sold at approximately £6 each in the UK illegal trade (5x profit per packet) compared with £11 for a packet sold by a legitimate trader.

"Finally, buying cheap tobacco also makes it more accessible to young people at a time--in the midst of a respiratory virus pandemic-- when you could be considering quitting. If you would like to stop smoking, the #QuitforCovid campaign online and on Twitter offers online support and advice, as do local pharmacies that have signed onto our Stop Smoking efforts."

You can report illicit tobacco online or call 0300 999 6999.

Learn more about the benefits of quitting smoking and advice online or call the National Smokefree Helpline on 0300 123 1044.