An operation between West Yorkshire Trading Standards, West Yorkshire Police from Leeds East, Trading Standards officers from Sheffield, North Lincs, North East Lincs, Barnsley and Doncaster, licensing officers from Leeds City Council, revenue protection officers from British Gas and Wagtail UK, targeting dealers of cheap and illicit tobacco resulted in a seizure of more than 70,000 cigarettes and 8kg of hand rolling tobacco. If genuine, the value of the cigarettes seized would be over £40,000 with a loss of duty to the tax payer of more than £25,000. A large quantity of cash was also seized, believed to be the proceeds of crime from the sales of illicit tobacco.
A total of 9 premises were visited across Leeds in which illegal practices were taking place. The operation targeted hot spot areas and businesses identified from intelligence and complaints passed to West Yorkshire Trading Standards by members of the public and partner agencies.
Illicit tobacco was hidden in concealments built in to the wall, hidden in a van and behind the counter. Fresh food which was in breach of the Food Safety Act 1990 was recovered as well as unsafe face creams and mobile charging cables. 3 premises were also found to be abstracting electricity.
Serious criminality was disrupted as a result of the operation with further action to be taken in the form of legal proceedings, alcohol licence reviews and the potential for evictions of traders by landlords of the businesses.
The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, funded by the five Public Health departments, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The initiative uses multi-agency enforcement and community marketing campaigns to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.
To date the programme has taken nearly 8 million illicit cigarettes and more than two and half tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire. With more inspections planned in the coming weeks, these figures are set to increase. Training sessions with thousands of members of the public and hundreds of front line professionals have been delivered to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco.
Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said, “We are committed to the fight against cheap and illicit tobacco. By taking tough action and working with partners, this operation has taken a significant amount of illicit tobacco off the streets. Illicit cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at a fraction of the price in a range of locations such as pubs, clubs, shops, private houses and even by street hawkers. Illicit tobacco undermines the age and price restrictions placed on tobacco and also encourages people to continue smoking. It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds. Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell these illegal products in order to pay off debts or fearing harm to themselves or their families. I would like to thank all the partners and members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”
If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illicit tobacco please contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000 or report it at https://keep-it-out.co.uk/ anonymously.
More information about the campaign can be found on the website and anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at