WATCH: Search dog sniffs out stash of illegal tobacco worth thousands

A specially trained search dog has helped lead Trading Standards officers to seizures of illegal tobacco.

Cooper sniffed out the stashes of illegal tobacco.
Cooper sniffed out the stashes of illegal tobacco.

Cooper, a four-year-old fox red Labrador from detection dog specialists BWY Canine, sniffed out the stashes for officers at Staffordshire County Council's Trading Standards service during raids at six independent retail premises in Stafford and Cannock.

His work led to the seizure of 36,720 illegal cigarettes and 14.55kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco with a street value of around £9,000.

The raids were carried out as part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “The sale of illicit and counterfeit tobacco products is a crime that not only damages local communities and people’s health but also harms legitimate businesses.

“These latest successful raids prove that the service will continue to take the necessary action where they know it is going on.

"All tobacco is harmful but illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to start smoking and get hooked.

"Furthermore, sellers also rarely care who they sell to, so I would urge anyone with information about the sale of such products to get in touch with the team.”

Staffordshire County Council says more than five million illegal cigarettes have already been seized from local retail outlets across England and Wales in the first six months of this year as part of Operation CeCe.

One of the places the illegal tobacco was secreted in.

It says the haul of illicit products also includes more than 1,700kg of hand rolled tobacco and 66kg of shisha and that in total more than £2.7 million pounds worth of illegal tobacco products have been taken off streets since the operation launched in January 2021.

In the UK it is estimated that about 1 in 10 of all cigarettes and half of all hand-rolling tobacco are not duty paid.

Authorities say the illegal trade in tobacco also has strong links to organised crime and illicit tobacco can have a "devastating effect" on health.

Anyone with information about the sale of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes in Staffordshire should call the Fight the Fakes hotline on 01785 330356.

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