Around 83,000 cigarettes have been seized as part of a crackdown on illegal tobacco by Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service in partnership with Northamptonshire Police.
As well as the cigarettes, of which 50,000 were discovered at one premises hidden in a secret room, approximately 1,900 pouches of hand rolling tobacco were also found during raids carried out across the county over the last three months by trading standards and police officers with the help of a trained sniffer dog.
Northamptonshire Police also seized a large quantity of cash and two vehicles associated with criminal activity at one address.
All tobacco sold in the UK must have certain warnings in English and also a picture warning, so anyone buying illegal tobacco will know straight away that it is not legal. Tobacco smuggling costs the UK economy nearly £3billion and is often linked to other criminal activity such as drugs and people trafficking. It is estimated that 22% of cigarettes smoked in the East Midlands avoid UK tax.
Cabinet member for environment Councillor Ben Smith said: “Sales of illegal cigarettes are usually done under the counter, as the tobacco is often either smuggled or counterfeit and hasn't been put through proper quality control processes as to what it contains.
“This means that not only do sales of illegal tobacco harm the interests of honest businesses, they also pose a risk to your health. In many cases, it is significantly more dangerous than legitimate tobacco with high levels of nicotine, tar and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Some samples have even been found to contain rat droppings and asbestos.
“Anyone who is offered cheap tobacco or other types of illicit goods, or who sees them being supplied, should report it to trading standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Alternatively, you can email details to email@example.com."
During the raids, which were carried out at shops, off licenses, pubs and private addresses, trading standards also found illegal alcohol, medicines, dangerous lighters and fake clothing.
The penalties for these offences could include thousands of pounds in fines and even imprisonment, plus premises with alcohol licenses could have them revoked.
Investigations are ongoing so further details about the raids are currently unavailable.