Almost 200 packs of illicit cigarettes have been seized by the Royal Borough’s Trading Standards team.
Officers carried out checks at retailers in Windsor, Ascot and the surrounding area and employed the help of search dog Yoyo during the operation.
Yoyo can detect tobacco located in hidden places and at one business 190 packs of cigarettes, all of which had foreign labelling contrary to UK law, were discovered. The team also seized 14 tubs of shisha tobacco with no labelling, and 11 packs of cigars, also with foreign labelling, from the same business.
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. A specialist dog handler and Yoyo joined Trading Standards for the operation last week.
Councillor David Cannon, cabinet member for public protection, said: “Well done to the Trading Standards team and to Yoyo on this fantastic result. This operation helps to protect the community and law-abiding businesses from the sale of illegal, inferior and incorrectly labelled goods.
“The black market in cheap, illicit tobacco is a national issue which brings criminals into our neighbourhoods and creates an unfair trading environment for the vast majority of law-abiding businesses who always follow the rules and only buy traceable, genuine products from reputable suppliers.
“This latest operation follows on from the checks we conducted in Maidenhead in November and having an asset like sniffer dog Yoyo is a valuable resource enabling us to crack down on the sale of these products. 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.
“Our message to those who choose to bring these products into our borough and attempt to sell them is simple – you cannot outsmart the detection dogs, so please do not try. We will continue to carry out checks to help ensure all products being sold are legitimate and take robust action where necessary.”
Yoyo first discovered 10 packets of 20 cigarettes with foreign labelling hidden in a whiskey bottle box behind a counter, before more cigarettes were located in the shop’s storeroom.
The seized items will undergo expert examination and Trading Standards is continuing enquiries with the business concerned, with a view to taking enforcement action and, if possible, identifying their suppliers. Enforcement options range from issuing formal warnings through to prosecution. A review of the store’s licence may also be conducted.
Anyone with information about the sale of illicit or counterfeit tobacco products should report this this to Trading Standards at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.