Tens of thousands of counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes being sold at only £3 for 20 have been seized at stores throughout Warwickshire.
Warwickshire County Council Trading Standars officers accompanied by Warwickshire Police and Immigration Officers used sniffer dogs to find more than 38,0000 suspected illegal cigarettes behind walls, in ceilings, toilets and fridges at stores in Leamington, Rugby, Nuneaton and Atherstone.
The raids were carried out this month in support of national No Smoking Day 2016 with the aim of reducing the availability of cigarettes to young people and children for ‘pocket money prices’.
Officers also discovered 6.8kg of suspected illegal hand rolling tobacco and bottles of suspected counterfeit vodka.
Shop owners whose stores are found to be selling illegal cigarettes face prosecution, the loss of their alcohol licence and National Lottery terminal.
Anyone found guilty of supplying counterfeit tobacco could face up to ten years in jail and unlimited fines.
Cllr John Horner, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for Community Safety, said: “Warwickshire Trading standards will continue to carry out these enforcement exercises to support legitimate retailers and taxpayers and help protect the health of children and young people who are often tempted by cheap illegal tobacco.”
Cllr Philip Johnson, chairman of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, added: “I would urge anyone with information about the manufacture or sale of illegal tobacco to report the matter to the confidential fakes hotline on 0845 894 1008 or to Crimestoppers anonymously.
“If you are a smoker and want help to quit, our quit4good service has helped thousands of smokers in Warwickshire to become smoke free. Research has shown that you are four times more likely to stop smoking for good if signed up to the quit4good 12 week programme.”
All of the premises were visited as a result of information passed on to the police and trading standards by members of the public.
Investigations are continuing and anyone prosecuted as a result of the raids will be named.
Warwickshire PC Justin Rai said: “This was a good result as counterfeit tobacco is often smuggled and distributed by organised crime groups.
“This is an important seizure of a significant scale for the local areas. I thank the local community for their vital intelligence and ongoing support.”