Thousands of potentially lethal counterfeit cigarettes have been seized following a trading standards crackdown in Wolverhampton.

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Officers from Wolverhampton City Council targeted a number of businesses across the city where illegal tobacco products were believed to be on sale.

For the first time in such operations in Wolverhampton, 'sniffer' dogs that have been specially trained to detect illicit tobacco, were used to increase the chances of detection.

And, as a result of the 2 day operation, around 25,000 counterfeit and duty free cigarettes and 3 kg of illegal chewing tobacco was confiscated from some of the premises visited.

The council obtained funding for the operation from the Black Country Tobacco Alliance, which is made up of officers from councils and public health bodies across the region, and used it for the hire of the specialist dogs.

The dogs have been trained to target the scent of tobacco products and were able to direct officers to hidden stashes in more unusual places such as furniture, freezers and clothing.

Officers were also joined by representatives from HM Customs and Excise and West Midlands Police during the operation.

Action is set to be taken against the owners of premises where the material was seized while further investigations will be carried out to identify their suppliers.

Andy Jervis, Wolverhampton City Council's Head of Regulatory Services, said: "The aim of crackdowns such as this is to protect the public and legitimate businesses and the quantity seized highlights the value of these operations.

"Counterfeit cigarettes pose even greater health risks than legitimate ones as they often contain far more carbon monoxide and nicotine.

"Having dangerous, illegal tobacco easily available also undermines the work being carried out by the city's public health teams in helping residents, particularly young people, quit smoking and lead healthier lives.

"There are further safety concerns such as the quality of the paper and the self extinguishing qualities of the cigarettes and the seized items have been sent away to the fire service to be tested.

"Legitimate traders were very supportive of the operation as those selling illegal tobacco adversely affect their trade.

"It is also worth remembering that the sale of such items robs the public purse of money that could fund essential services.

"Using the sniffer dogs proved to be extremely worthwhile as they enhanced the operation and helped officers seize material that otherwise might not have been detected.

"We are determined to clamp down on illegal operations such as this and we will not hesitate to take action against anyone involved in these practices."

The operation is set to be featured on the BBC's Fake Britain programme, to be broadcast later this year.

  • released: Friday 2 May, 2014