In July, Merton Council’s Trading Standards teamed up alongside B.W.Y. Canine Ltd detection dog unit outside the civic centre to bring residents the Illegal Tobacco Road Show. These road shows have proven hugely successful in their aim to raise awareness on the threat posed by the illegal tobacco trade.
Criminal networks are estimated to be making over £100 million a year from the trade in London, with a third of London smokers saying they were offered illegal tobacco in the last year. Since 2017, residents across 11 London Boroughs including Merton have been involved in the confiscation of over 21,000 illicit items as a result of intelligence provided at roadshows. Last year in Merton, a single operation uncovered more than 1,000 cigarettes and over 5 kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco believed to be illicit.
Illegal tobacco poses a risk to public health and can have a damaging impact on younger people. Often retailers selling illicit tobacco sell to underage customers at significantly lower prices than offered by legal retailers, they may also sell ‘singles’ to make tobacco more affordable, encouraging young people to become hooked. Illegal tobacco products often aren’t regulated, with no safety features or health warnings, they frequently have a dangerously high tar content, rogue ingredients or ‘fillers’ such as excrement, dead flies and chemicals, therefore with a lower tobacco content.
Educating residents about the detrimental effects illegal tobacco has on the community is key to stamping out the trade. Each day of the roadshows, the public are advised and educated on the dangers of illegal tobacco trade, they can give intelligence and meet the dogs and their handlers.
Merton Trading Standards use the services of B.W.Y. Canine Ltd, a leading specialist in detection dogs for UK and International operations. These dedicated sniffer dogs have proved indispensable in finding hidden tobacco during searches of premises. Between them, Cocker Spaniels Yo-yo, Scamp and Phoebe have sniffed out over £12m worth of illegal tobacco across the country.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for community and culture, Councillor Nick Draper said: “We are very pleased that Merton residents were able to join us in our effort with 23 London boroughs to stamp out the sale and distribution of illegal tobacco products and to help build a healthier community for Merton and London.”
If you have information relating to illegal tobacco which may be useful, the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline is available on 03454 04 05 06 or report it online using the London Trading Standards anonymous reporting tool.
Want to quit smoking? The One You Merton website offers residents stop smoking support, visit today to find out more.