Illegal tobacco seized by Trading Standards teams

West Sussex County Council Trading Standards says it will continue to take action against shops found to be supplying illegal tobacco.

The warning follows a series of visits to eight shops in West Sussex, with illicit cigarettes found at four shops in Worthing and Bognor Regis.

In a planned operation Trading Standards and HMRC Enforcement Officers were accompanied by three specialist tobacco detection dogs and their handler.

The operation was part of Operation CeCe, a joint initiative between National Trading Standards and HMRC to tackle the illegal tobacco trade.

Over 5,000 illicit cigarettes were seized from the four shops with illegal disposable vapes also removed by officers from one of the stores.

The cigarettes were all concealed in hidden parts of the four shops and had clearly been placed so they would not have been found without the specialist Cocker Spaniel detection dogs.

Peter Aston, Trading Standards Team Manager, said: “All forms of tobacco products are harmful whether purchased from a legal or illegal source, but the illicit trade undermines efforts that have been made to reduce smoking, making it harder for smokers to quit and making it easier for non-smokers to start and ex-smokers to relapse. The availability and typically lower price of illicit tobacco also encourages young people to take up smoking.

“Working with partner agencies and specialist detection dog teams we will continue to take robust enforcement action against any shop selling illicit tobacco in West Sussex. As well as seizing stock found, store owners face prosecution and if they sell alcohol the presence of illegal tobacco can be grounds for their alcohol licence to be suspended or revoked.”

Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, said: “We are committed to keeping people in West Sussex safe from buying counterfeit items, or products illegally imported into this country.

“Together with our partner agencies, we will continue to crack down on those who continue to sell illegal tobacco products.

“I hope the results of this joint operation send a strong message that if shop owners deal in illicit tobacco, they should expect to be caught, have their stock removed and face criminal charges and possible investigation from HMRC if duty has been evaded.”