Following a recent swoop on four businesses in the Thornton Heath, South Norwood and London Road areas Croydon Council Trading Standards officers have seized around 14,000 illegal cigarettes and quantities of hand rolling tobacco.
Specialist dog teams including YoYo, Maggie and Cooper from BWY Canine Ltd, were used to sniff out the tobacco during the quick raids taking place on Wednesday 2 June.
The raids carried out by Croydon Council officers were part of a national campaign called Operation CeCe organised by National Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs officers to tackle the scourge of illegal tobacco.
Smoking is harmful but there are many additional dangers to smoking counterfeit cigarettes which can contain up to five times the levels of cancer causing chemicals as well as foreign particles dangerous to an individual’s health.
The newsagents and corner shops – which cannot be named for legal reasons – all received a bulletin a couple of months ago warning about the dangers of selling counterfeit tobacco and during the raids stashes were found behind the counter, in bags and on the individuals themselves. Some of the shopkeepers were repeat offenders.
Customers can spot illegal cigarettes because they may not include the correct health warnings or are written in foreign languages. Illegal tobacco is often kept away from the shop counter.
Further enquires are now pending. Anyone prosecuted and convicted of being involved in selling or supplying illegal tobacco can face penalties including up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
“Congratulations once again to our excellent trading standards team which has played a major role in cracking down on shopkeepers intent on flouting the law.
“All cigarettes are bad for you but it is known that illegal tobacco is made from the cheapest ingredients the makers can find and are sold cheaply with no tax paid so the criminals who supply them can make huge profits at your expense.
“Our trading standards team frequently carries out spot checks to see if businesses are selling tobacco illegally to underage customers and will continue to do all we can to protect the public from this unlawful, dangerous trade.”
Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, cabinet member for communities, safety and business recovery