Trading Standards and Partners Cleaning Up In The Fight Against Illicit Tobacco

Friday 4 December

A multi-agency operation targeting dealers of cheap and illicit tobacco resulted in a seizure of almost 140,000 cigarettes and more than 50kg of hand rolling tobacco. If genuine, the value of the cigarettes seized would be over £70,000 and the hand rolling tobacco more than £25,000 bringing the total value of the seizures to be over £95,000.

Approximately £20,000 in cash was seized believed to be the proceeds of crime from the sales of illicit tobacco. Almost £30,000 worth of non-duty paid alcohol identified by Trading Standards and the police was seized by colleagues from HMRC. One business was also suspected to be abstracting electricity which was dealt with by British gas.

The multi-agency operation involved West Yorkshire Trading Standards along with West Yorkshire Police teams from Killingbeck, Normanton, Pontefract, Shipley, Huddersfield, Halifax and Brighouse. Support was also provided by PCSO’s, licensing officers from Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale from both the police and council licensing teams. British Gas Revenue Protection and tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK also joined the Operations.

Between all the partners, almost £150,000 worth of criminality was disrupted as a result of the Operations with further action to be taken in the form of legal proceedings, POCA investigations, alcohol license reviews and evictions of traders by landlords of the businesses.

A total of 16 premises were visited across West Yorkshire in which illegal practices were taking place. The operations targeted hot spot areas and businesses identified from intelligence and complaints passed to West Yorkshire Trading Standards by members of the public.

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 6 million illicit cigarettes and 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.”

Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, “The illegal sale of tobacco in communities enables and encourages young children to buy it cheaply.  It is really great that so many partners are working to tackle traders that break the law. All tobacco – both legal and illegal – kills half of all long term smokers. Children and young smokers are often targeted by people who sell illegal cigarettes, making it even easier for them to get hooked on smoking. The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to. 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

https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree