120,000 Illegal cigarettes worth £27,661 have been seized by trading standards officers in a series of planned raids on 12 shops across East Birmingham.

This was an intelligence led exercise where reports had been received that illegal tobacco and cigarettes was being supplied. Teams of officers targeted shops in Handsworth, Alum Rock, Sparkhill, Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath.

Birmingham City Council’s trading standards officers worked with local police teams and had the assistance of sniffer dogs provided by BWY Canine Specialist Search Dogs.

Illegal tobacco products were found at ten of the twelve premises. Cigarettes were concealed under counters and in roof spaces to avoid detection. All products will be destroyed in due course.

The illegal products seized included counterfeit and cheap foreign labelled products that breach consumer protection legislation and are also non-duty paid; these cannot be legally sold in the UK. A small quantity of shisha and snuff products were also found and seized.

The contents of all cigarettes are harmful and contain around 4,000 different chemicals, including known carcinogens. However, as the provenance of illegal tobacco is unknown it may contain further dangerous ingredients.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “The raids carried out by our Trading Standards Officers have successfully taken around £27, 661 worth of illegal cigarettes out of circulation.

“Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children to smoke by providing a cheap source. This activity also brings crime into our neighbourhoods, which is why it is important to clamp down on it. This also has an impact on those businesses that are trading legally.

“The detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes even if hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in these illegal products.”

Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards Service continues to focus on intelligence led inspections to stamp out the illegal supply and will continue to work with their partners to focus their activities.

Investigations will continue and may result in legal action. Where premises have a licence to sell alcohol reviews will be taken with a view to ask for licences to be revoked.