77,000 cigarettes seized and man arrested in raids
More than 75,000 cigarettes worth almost £20,000 have been seized and a man arrested in raids in County Durham.
The retail value of the cigarettes and tobacco seized was between £20,000 and £25,000.
The man was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of counterfeit cigarettes.
The raids were carried out by our trading standards officers on Wednesday morning in execution of warrants.
They were assisted by officers from Durham Constabulary and accompanied by immigration officials.
The arrested man and a woman were interviewed by officers.
The operation is the latest by our trading standard service targeting supplies of illegal tobacco products.
Owen Cleugh, our consumer protection manager, said: "Illegal tobacco affects our communities on many levels.
"Supplies of illegal tobacco make it easier for children to get hold of cigarettes and to start smoking. Children are often aware of who sells illegal tobacco locally, and at pocket money prices.
"Cheap tobacco also encourages people to keep smoking and to smoke more.
"The illicit tobacco trade is furthermore linked to serious criminality, which can have a devastating impact on communities."
Anyone with information on the sale of illegal tobacco is encouraged to report it by calling the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000. This can be done anonymously.
He added: "Sellers of counterfeit tobacco can face up to 10 years in prison, unlimited fines, as well as having their assets seized under Proceeds of Crime legislation.
"Those who sell it should be warned that raids like these are not a one-off and that we are committed to acting wherever we can to combat the supply of these products in our neighbourhoods."
Officers seized 3,874 packets of 20 cigarettes, a total of 77,480. Based on a price of £4 to £5 per pack, their retail value was between £15,496 and £19,370.
They recovered 571 x 50g packets of hand rolling tobacco, a total of 28.55kg. Based on a price of £9 per pack, their retail value was £5,139.
This gave a total retail value for the cigarettes and tobacco of £20,635 to £24,509.
Advice on quitting smoking is available free of charge. Information on how to access it can be found at the NHS Smokefree web page.