Thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized from shops in Lowestoft and Beccles as part of a Trading Standards crackdown.
More than 12,000 cigarettes were sniffed out by tobacco detection dogs at three shops in the town, with over 8000 of the cigarettes and 8kg of hand rolled tobacco found under a manhole cover in the rear of one the premises.
The operation was supported by Suffolk Police, Norfolk Trading Standards and Wagtail UK.
A total of 12,440 cigarettes and 18.45kg of hand rolled tobacco were seized from the stores. All the items are suspected to be illegally imported into the UK without duty being paid and do not comply with the legal packaging and labelling requirements.
Several of them are also suspected to be counterfeits of popular brands, which are likely to contain harmful substances and may not self-extinguish – presenting increased health and safety risks.
The seized products will now be fully assessed as part of the investigation to determine the exact offences that have been committed.
Test purchases had been carried out before the raids with all three selling to covert officers.
Councillor Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities said: “Intelligence was received that the premises were selling illegal tobacco. Test purchases and a thorough search of the premises and grounds by the team led to the discovery of the tobacco products.
“Far from being a victimless crime, illegal tobacco trading creates a cheap source for children and young people, undermines the reduction of smoking, and affects the trade of legitimate retailers.
“We strongly encourage members of the public to recognise the adverse health, economic and social impacts of the illicit trade of tobacco products.
“The sale of illegal tobacco is also linked to organised crime which results in dealers going to extreme lengths and using very sophisticated methods to hide the tobacco products from trading standards.”
People are urged to look for:
- Packaging that is not plain olive green
- A lack of health warnings
- Text on the packet that is not in English
- Cheap prices
- Unknown brands
If you suspect someone is selling illegal tobacco in Suffolk, please report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.