Sniffing Out Illicit Tobacco
The fight to rid South Tyneside streets of illegal tobacco continues with thousands of illicit cigarettes and tobacco products having been confiscated in recent weeks.
South Tyneside Council's Trading Standards officers seized the haul with the help of specialist detection dog YoYo, uncovering 46,100 cigarettes and 20.15kg of hand-rolling tobacco from two shops in co-ordinated raids across the Borough.
Supported by Northumbria Police, the premises were targeted following intelligence provided by concerned members of the public that illegal products were being offered for sale.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: "Illicit tobacco includes counterfeit tobacco, non-UK duty paid tobacco and 'cheap white' cigarettes, which have little or no legitimate market and so are effectively manufactured specifically for smuggling. The impact of this is far reaching.
"Unfortunately, cheap tobacco encourages smokers to keep smoking for longer, breaking down their willpower to quit, not to mention the negative impact it has on legitimate traders who operate within the law and money it deprives from vital public services.
"What is extremely concerning is that dealers often target children and young people, encouraging them to start smoking. This puts them at risk of developing a harmful addiction as well as the multitude of serious long-term health problems that smoking can cause.
"Those who sell illegal tobacco simply don't care who is buying it, which is why it is crucial we stop this activity in our communities.
"We thank the public for their support with these seizures. It shows that people are less prepared to turn a blind eye to this sort of practice. We hope this support continues and we will take enforcement action wherever necessary."
The raids were part of Operation CeCe, a larger National Trading Standards partnership with HM Revenue and Customs, aimed at tackling illegal tobacco.
Chief Inspector Neil Hall, of Northumbria Police, said: "Some people may think the selling of counterfeit goods is a victimless crime, but sometimes these goods can be a product of organised crime.
"Groups can supply them into the region with the intention of making money, which enables them to then continue to fund illicit activities.
"We are committed to pursuing criminals and protecting our communities under the banner of Operation Sentinel. By working with our partners, we will continue to do all we can to detect and disrupt criminality."
Investigations are ongoing into the businesses concerned.
Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco in the Borough can report it anonymously to the Keep It Out hotline on 0300 999 0000 or via the online reporting form at www.keep-it-out.co.uk