Sniffer dog Cooper has been assisting our Trading Standards team in their work to detect and seize suspected counterfeit tobacco products in the borough.
Officers carried out checks at retailers in Maidenhead and employed the help of the spaniel during the operation.
Cooper is able to detect tobacco located in hidden places and the team seized several packets of cigarettes and rolling tobacco believed to be counterfeit.
The visits were carried as part of Operation Cece, which is a National Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs initiative to tackle the illegal tobacco trade. Specialist dog handlers and Cooper joined officers for the operation last week.
Councillor David Cannon, cabinet member for public protection, said: “This operation was about protecting the local community from harm. The sale of cheap, illegal tobacco brings criminals into our neighbourhoods and it creates an unfair trading environment for our law-abiding businesses.
“There are extra risks with counterfeit tobacco products as the quality control is not there so the strength can vary greatly. There may also be more harmful impurities in the products - counterfeit goods, generally, are not made in accordance with safety standards.
“Tell-tale signs that tobacco products are counterfeit include failing to include the required warnings showing the health risks associated with smoking, such as packets with no picture warnings, and the low cost compared to normal cigarettes.
“At a local level, we work closely with National Trading Standards to assist in the detection and seizure of these products by Trading Standards and test purchasing activity to target those who supply them.
“Having an asset like sniffer dog Cooper is a valuable resource enabling us to crack down on their sale. It is one we will continue to use going forward to give us the best possible chance of seizing and, ultimately, preventing these items from reaching consumers.”
The team discovered 10 packets of cigarettes and seven pouches of rolling tobacco suspected of being counterfeit, which were also not compliant with current labelling regulations. Officers also seized 40 packets of chewing tobacco which failed to comply with labelling regulations.
The seized items will undergo expert examination to establish their counterfeit status. Trading Standards is continuing enquiries with the businesses concerned, with a view to taking enforcement action and, if possible, identifying their suppliers. Enforcement options range from issuing formal warnings through to prosecution.
Anyone concerned about the sale of counterfeit tobacco products should report this this to Trading Standards at email@example.com or via Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
You can also report a business to the HMRC fraud hotline if they’re selling tobacco or alcohol without paying the full UK Excise Duty. Call 0800 788 887.