City of Wolverhampton Council has hailed the ongoing success of an operation targeting illegal cigarettes and alcohol after the latest raids resulted in £150,000 of goods being seized.

Type=image;ImageID=10692;ImageClass=left;ImageTitle=Latest haul of fake tobacco;TitleClass=strong;

Type=image;ImageID=10694;ImageClass=left;ImageTitle=Keith Ireland, Lee Jenks, Stu Phillips with Yoyo and Scamp;TitleClass=strong;

Type=image;ImageID=10693;ImageClass=left;ImageTitle=Scamp the search dog surveys the haul;TitleClass=strong;

Four convenience stores in the Whitmore Reans, Penn Fields and Portobello areas of the city were targeted in the recent operation.

Council trading standards officers, supported by sniffer dogs, discovered more than 16,000 fake and duty free cigarettes as well as hand rolling tobacco and shisha.

The sniffer dogs hunt out the potentially lethal products as they are often hidden in some imaginative places.

This time around, the dogs found cigarettes concealed in the ceiling of a toilet as well as a fuse box connected to a walk in fridge.

The latest raids form part of Operation Riposte which City of Wolverhampton Council is leading with the support of West Midlands Police and other agencies.

Riposte targets the sale of smuggled tobacco products which can be highly dangerous due to their harmful chemical content. They can also start fires as they don't self extinguish when left unattended.

Likewise, counterfeit alcohol can be full of chemicals linked to causing blindness, kidney and liver problems and even death.

Acting on information from the community, Riposte has so far seen the seizure of well over a third of a million smuggled cigarettes and large quantities of hand rolling tobacco. Smuggled alcohol has also been found.

Councillor Steve Evans, City of Wolverhampton Council's cabinet member for city environment, said: "Operation Riposte acts on valuable information we receive from the community about shops which put people's lives at risk from selling dangerous smuggled cigarettes and alcohol.

"Far from being harmless, these products are supplied by unscrupulous gangs who often fill them with highly dangerous chemicals which can kill.

"Smuggled cigarettes have been known to cause fatal house fires because they don't self extinguish unlike legitimate tobacco products. Fake alcohol can cause blindness and death and should not be consumed under any circumstances.

"We would appeal to the public and law abiding businesses to continue to let us know if they suspect shops are selling these products. The information will be treated in confidence and we will act on the information received."

"When traders sell tobacco products at well below the normal street value it undermines the work done by the council and NHS to help people to stop smoking. It also makes the products available to youngsters at 'pocket money prices' which creates more young smokers.

"City of Wolverhampton Council will continue to pursue and punish traders who flout the law and protect consumers and those who trade fairly."

  • released: Thursday 22 September, 2016