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Tobacco detection dogs target illicit tobacco in Islington

Islington Council’s trading standards team have seized smuggled cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco with the help of two tobacco detection dogs.

Detection dogs Alfie and Indy discovered stashes of illicit tobacco at two premises in the Essex Road and Seven Sisters Road areas.  Overall 820 Marlboro cigarettes and 2.4kg of rolling tobacco were found.  Further action will be taken against the shop owners.

The operation was part of a wider series of raids that were coordinated by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and supported by the Department of Health.

The intelligence-led Operation Henry 2 will tackle illicit tobacco supplies in nine regions of England, over six months, using specialist tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said:  said: “All tobacco is harmful but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes make it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free.

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

“The illicit tobacco trade is controlled by organised crime and is therefore connected with the violent world of drugs, prostitution and people trafficking.  Anyone buying smuggled tobacco is helping to fund these other crimes.”

Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said: "The illegal tobacco trade costs taxpayers about £2 billion per year in lost revenue and is known to fund organised crime networks and criminal gang activity.

“Meanwhile, about 80,000 people die from smoking related diseases each year, in England alone, costing the overstretched NHS an estimated £2 billion. 

“Together we are winning the battle and figures show that the market share of illicit cigarettes has dropped from 21 per cent to 9 per cent in the last decade.

"Intelligence-led investigations like Operation Henry 2 keep illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market and away from children and young people."

Richard Las, deputy director of fraud and investigation service at HMRC, said: "HMRC works closely with other enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK. 

"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 such as Operation Henry to target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity."

Launched last year and supported by the Department of Health, Operation Henry was the first large scale coordinated trading standards investigation of its kind to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco.

It resulted in the seizure of more than 2.5 million cigarettes worth £614,488 with concealed tobacco products found in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture.

Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can call HMRC customs hotline anonymously on 0800 595 000.  
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