Detection dogs help in £27,500 illicit tobacco seizure

This story was published 12 December 2019

A large scale operation against illegal tobacco in Scarborough has uncovered 29,000 cigarettes and 29.25kg of tobacco worth more than £27,500.

a Wagtail tobacco detection dog in operation

Illicit products were discovered during the raids that were coordinated by North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards, supported by its Public Health team and Scarborough District Council.

The intelligence-led operation sought to tackle illicit tobacco supply across the Scarborough region using specialist tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK.

Detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes in the most unlikely places and in addition to having their stock confiscated offenders could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison if found in possession.

On this occasion the dogs were able to identify cigarettes and tobacco concealed in cardboard boxes, kitchen shelving units and concealed drawers which would not have otherwise been discovered during the raids.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, said: “People who deal in illegal tobacco are more likely to encourage others, especially children and young adults, to smoke. All tobacco is harmful but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes makes it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke-free.”

Matt O’Neill, North Yorkshire County council’s Assistant Director for Growth, Planning and Trading Standards, said: “Those who flaunt the legislation will have no hiding place. We will continue to adopt a zero tolerance approach to these matters and use every enforcement technique at our disposal to disrupt this type of activity.”

Trading Standards will continue to investigate the origin of the seized cigarettes and tobacco while working with the community to raise awareness of the dangers of illicit tobacco.

The County Council’s Tobacco Control Strategy aims to encourage communities to reshape social norms so that tobacco becomes less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible. Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can call the illegal tobacco reporting line on 0300 999 0000 or use the online reporting form.