Illegal tobacco worth £32,000 has been seized from premises in Weston-super-Mare as part of an investigation by North Somerset Council’s Trading Standards team assisted by colleagues from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The raids were part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards project to tackle the supply and sale of illegal tobacco. Enforcement activity took place at three premises in the town last month with searches carried out with help from a specially trained tobacco sniffer dog, Griff.
Two arrests were made, and a significant amount of cash was seized along with a large quantity of illegal tobacco which had an estimated street value of around £32,000. Investigations and enquiries are ongoing.
Cllr James Clayton, North Somerset Council’s executive member for safety in the community, said: “I’d like to thank the officers and teams involved with this latest enforcement action and ongoing investigation.
“Here in North Somerset, there is zero tolerance for flouting the law in relation to tobacco products and the links this often has to wider criminality. There’s no place for this on our communities.
“I’d urge anyone who has concerns about the sale of illegal tobacco products and vapes to report it to Trading Standards South West via their website.”
Ben Hayes, part of the Regional Trading Standards Investigation Team (South West), added: “Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and avoidable death in the UK. While all tobacco causes cancer, in our experience cigarettes and tobacco which are counterfeit or made for the illegal market are less likely to adhere to safety standards or a standardised manufacturing process.
“We simply don’t know what conditions they’re made in – factories may be in a poor state of repair or they may even be manufactured or packed at a home address. This poses a greater risk of them containing contaminants and in unknown quantities. When tested, counterfeit and other brands – specifically manufactured for the illegal market – exceed the maximum legal levels of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide by more than 80 per cent.
“While all lit cigarettes pose a fire risk, illegal cigarettes may also fail to extinguish properly if left unattended, greatly increasing the risk of fire in the home.”
Sales of illegal tobacco and/or vapes can be reported directly to the Trading Standards South West team here