Sniffer dogs helped uncover £8,500 of illegal tobacco in Mitcham this week after a raid on two convenience stores by trading standards officers.
Yoyo, a specially trained spaniel, found thousands of cigarettes and rolling tobacco in one property stashed above a false celiling, behind a concealed wall panel and inside an empty cash register.
It was part of a new campaign to stamp out illegal tobacco acorss the capital which is being locally implemented by Merton and Richmond-upon-Thames Councils Regulatory Partnership.
It aims to improve public understanding of the different types of illegal tobacco whose sales net criminal gangs more than £100m a year.
Ross Garrod, Cabinet Member for Street Cleanliness and Parking for Merton Council, said: “The products are unregulated, untaxed and often sold under-the-counter, which means they are available at far reduced prices, making it easier for children to buy them and to start smoking from a young age.
“We all know how dangerous cigarettes are for your health but their illegal counterparts can be even worse with a well publicised campaign by the Local Government Asociation last year finding everything from excrement, mould and dead flies in them.”
Telltale signs of illegal tobacco include:
- Packets with foreign language health warnings
- Packets with no picture health warnings
- Being much cheaper than normal cigarettes (i.e. £3.50 – £5.00 per pack of 20)
- Unusual or foreign brand names, such as Jin Ling – or those from Russia and the Far East.
- Being sold in unusual locations, i.e. pubs, private houses, ice cream vans, burger vans
If you see any tobacco products that match the description above or have information which may be useful, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506 or report it on line at londontradingstandards.org.uk/report-consumer-crime