3000 illegal cigarettes seized in Ilford and Woodford

Tobacco raid

Tobacco raid - Credit: Archant

More than 3,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized in raids across Redbridge.

Tobacco raid

Tobacco raid - Credit: Archant

Stashes of tobacco were discovered in Ilford and Woodford hidden in food packaging and under floor boards in an operation co-ordinated by the Charted Trading Standards Institute (CSTI).

Cabinet member for civic pride Cllr Dev Sharma 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.”

The raid, backed by the Department of Health, also uncovered 200 packs of illegal chewing tobacco and detection dogs were used to sniff out hidden contraband.

Cllr Sharma added: “Our trading standards officers are working hard to keep these illegal products off ours streets and are cracking down on the businesses and individuals that flout the law.

“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 10 years in prison.”

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The HMCR works closely with other enforcement agencies, including CSTI, to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK.

Richard Las, deputy director of fraud and investigation at HMRC, said: “Seizing illicit product is only one of the tools used, the focus is on using a range of interventions, from penalties to prosecutions, to encourage compliance and maximise deterrent. Partnership working with trading standards is vital in order to share intelligence and collaborate on joint exercises to target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity.”

In November, reporter Ajay Nair went undercover with ex-police officers in Redbridge and discovered that 17 shops sold cigarettes illegally.

Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can call HMRC anonymously on: 0800 595 000