Shop owners across the city are being warned to steer clear of illegal cigarettes and tobacco after tens of thousands of illicit cigarettes were uncovered in a raid

Trading Standards officers seized a large haul of illicit cigarettes, different varieties of tobacco, disposable vapes and an extendable truncheon during the raid at a city premises.

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

A specially trained tobacco detection dog was used to detect the illicit products which were found in a hidden room behind stacked boxes and shelving.

The operation last week yielded around 110,000 illicit cigarettes, with the majority believed to be counterfeit.

In addition, 97 bags of spit/oral tobacco, incorrectly labelled and banned in this country, were discovered, along with along with 15 kilos of incorrectly labelled shisha tobacco and 17kg of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco. None of the items seized were UK duty paid.

A further 63 disposable vapes were found with oversized tanks and incorrect warnings along with further substances believed to be shisha tobacco. These substances were not labelled and will go for testing. 

An extendable truncheon was also discovered and seized by the police under Offensive Weapons legislation.

The raids were carried out under Operation CeCe, which is a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.

Trading Standards officers were joined by representatives from West Midlands Police during the operation.

John Roseblade, director for housing and city environment at City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “Our Trading Standards officers carry out operations such as this to help protect the public from dangerous products, as well as to protect our legitimate businesses. 

“Counterfeit cigarettes pose even greater health risks than legitimate ones as they often contain far more nicotine. In addition, fake products have been found to contain high levels of lead and arsenic.

“Importantly, legal cigarettes are manufactured to meet safety requirements, which reduce the chance that they could set fire to sofas, beds and other combustible materials. Illegal cigarettes are not self-extinguishable and have been attributed to a number of house fires and deaths.”

Wendy Martin, Director of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.” 

Once investigations have been completed, the illegal cigarettes and tobacco will be handed over to a recycling scheme to be dealt with in an environmentally friendly way.

Officers from our Trading Standards team have issued some warning signs to look out for when buying cigarettes or tobacco.

The tell-tale signs of illegal tobacco include unusual taste, cheap price, unusual packaging, spelling mistakes or incorrect logos. They may also have health warnings that may not be printed in English, might not display a picture, might not be printed on a white background and may have different sized lettering to usual.

Anyone who thinks they may have been sold illegal goods or suspect someone is selling them, can email or visit Citizens Advice.