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Trading Standards operation to sniff out illicit tobacco

Lee Christensen, mobile enforcement officer at HMRC, Penny Chaplin, dog handler at Wagtail Detection Dogs and Sarah Littell, lead officerfor trading standards at Kingston Council, with sniffer dogs Molly and Milo

Sniffer dogs Milo and Molly have put their noses to good use and helped Kingston Council’s Trading Standards team seized 5.55kg of illicit tobacco, as well as unregulated tobacco leaves.

The joint operation was carried out by Kingston Council in partnership with HMRC and Wagtail UK detection dogs. 
 
The inspections led to the discovery of 5.55kg of illicit shisha tobacco with a sale value of £1,000, as well as 33 packets of tobacco leaves on a separate premises.
 
Previous checks have found counterfeit, unsafe, and non-duty paid cigarettes.

The shops were identified through shared intelligence between the Council’s Trading Standards team and HMRC looking to tackle the illegal sale of illicit tobacco.

Cllr Andreas Kirsch, portfolio holder with responsibility for Trading Standards at Kingston Council, said:

"This operation shows that our Trading Standards will continue to take the necessary action to reduce the trade of illegal tobacco products in the borough. Buying cheap or smuggled ‘under the counter’ cigarettes isn’t a bargain - it means trading with criminals. The information we get from the public is vital in helping us get these unsafe and counterfeit items off the streets - so please report it.”

The Council’s Trading Standards team took part in last week’s London-wide Stamp It Out campaign, aimed at clamping down on illegal tobacco, with Tuesday seeing Council officers and Wagtail staff holding a joint awareness event in Kingston Market Place, where another of Wagtail’s sniffer dogs, Pippa, showcased her detection talents.

Research has shown that illegal tobacco is a continuing issue in London. A third of smokers were offered illegal tobacco in the last year.  Sellers often target children which can be damaging on their health. The availability of these products also undermines stop smoking services and makes it harder for smokers to quit. 
 
The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously via the stop illegal tobacco website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or by calling Trading Standards on 03454 040506 or Crime Stoppers on 0800555111.

Notes to editors

Stamp It Out, which is also supported by London Councils, the Mayor of London, Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health for London, and Action on Smoking and Health aims to make it less socially acceptable to buy and sell illegal tobacco.