Sniffer dog finds the stash

Bradley the tobacco sniffer dog - taken by Wagtail UK
Bradley the tobacco sniffer dog - taken by Wagtail UK

MEET Bradley: one of the secret weapons in the war against Wigan’s smugglers of illegal tobacco.

Tobacco detection dogs have helped to discover 135,234 illegal cigarettes and 33.28kg of hand-rolling tobacco in a series of co-ordinated inspection visits across the North West.

The illegal products, with an estimated street value of around £32,370, were seized during inspection visits in Wigan, Salford, Rochdale, Manchester, Oldham, Warrington, Blackburn and Blackpool.

The visits were conducted as part of a national operation and carried out by local authority trading standards teams.

Operation Henry, which started in April and runs until September, cracks down on the supply of illegal tobacco across England. It is the result of a partnership between Trading Standards North West, and the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

The dogs that helped make the operation so successful were provided by Wagtail UK and funded by the Department of Health. The Operation is managed by TSI.

All of the products seized cannot be legally sold in the UK. The inspection visits were conducted as a result of information provided by the public.

The Wigan Evening Post recently caught up with officials having illegal tobacco hauls destroyed at the borough’s main waste disposal site at Kirless.

Andrea Crossfield, Chief Executive of Tobacco Free Futures, said: “It’s great to see action taking place across the North West against the supply of illegal tobacco, hitting local supply chains and warning dealers that sales will not be tolerated.

“The illegal trade undermines the effectiveness of efforts to reduce smoking and unfortunately is accessible through many sources within some communities, making it easier for children to start smoking and enabling them to become hooked at a young age. Cheap cigarettes also make it easier for non-smokers to start and ex-smokers to relapse.

“Local knowledge about offenders is vital to stamp out illegal tobacco in our communities, improve health and protect children.

“If you have information you would like to share please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or your local trading standards team through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4040 506.”

Leon Livermore, chief executive of TSI, said: “This partnership is one more example of how trading standards works with the private and public sector to protect consumers and support legal business practices.

“Through this partnership, trading standards has a unique opportunity to share information and develop intelligence with the aim of taking illicit tobacco off the streets.”