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Illegal tobacco, cigarettes, and vapes worth almost £30,000 seized in Walsall raids

Illegal cigarettes, tobacco and disposable vapes with a retail value of almost £30,000 have been seized across Walsall as part of a crackdown on the illicit tobacco trade.

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Police and trading standards seized almost £30,000's worth of illegal cigarettes, tobacco and disposable vapes.

Walsall Trading Standards, in partnership with West Midlands Police and a specialist search dog team, swooped on local shops and one associated vehicle during last week’s raids, after receiving intelligence that illegal tobacco was being sold.

The seizures included 20,640 illegal cigarettes, 2.95kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco, and 1,278 illegal disposable vapes.

Many of the disposable vapes seized contained 9,000 puffs, which is 15 times more than the approximate legal limit of 600.

In addition, police say two men found working without the right to work in the UK were referred to HM Immigration for further investigation.

The crackdown took place under Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

Three highly trained sniffer dogs, Cooper, Griff and Bran, assisted the team and Bran identified a highly-sophisticated hydraulic lift which rose from the floor when operated by a remote control.

Coffee grains had been sprinkled over the concealment to try to deter the dogs but the attempts failed.

Walsall Trading Standards is now warning people that disposable vapes pose a health risk, despite being attractive to children due to their colourful appearance and fruity flavours.

Recently, some illegal vapes have also been found to contain high levels of lead, nickel and chromium.

Councillor Garry Perry, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resilient communities, said: “Walsall retailers dealing in illegal tobacco will not be tolerated.

"They are encouraging crime amongst the community and putting vulnerable people at risk. This crackdown makes it clear that we will do everything within our power to keep our people safe and put make criminal businesses face the law.

"I thank our Trading Standards, police and the sniffer dogs for their hard work and I am very proud of their efforts.”

Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law.

"Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”

A spokesperson for Walsall Trading Standards said: "Walsall Trading Standards have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to these matters and will use every enforcement technique at their disposal to disrupt this type of activity.

"Tobacco bought on the illegal market is more likely to be the result of organised criminal activity with links to human trafficking, drugs and even terrorism.

"This brings crime into Walsall and exploits vulnerable people. Many traders are prepared to sell to children and get them hooked on smoking which is unacceptable and dangerous."