A haul of illegal tobacco has been seized as part of a new operation to crackdown on sales in West Yorkshire.
Operation Oil, which has targeted illegal sellers in vehicles and shops in Leeds and Kirklees, has now seized a haul of tobacco worth more than £53,000 as a result of complaints from the public.
The operation has been run jointly by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, West Yorkshire Police and Wagtail UK, which specialises in tobacco detection dogs.
More than 90,000 cigarettes and 22.55kg of hand-rolling tobacco were seized from two vehicles and nine business including a barber shop as part of the crackdown.
David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said “All tobacco – both legal and illegal – kills half of all long term smokers.
"Over time traders have gone to greater and greater lengths to conceal their stocks of illegal tobacco.
"They think that by hiding it in vehicles off the premises it will go undetected. This operation should be a lesson to illegal tobacco sellers that Trading Standards along with partner agencies will continue to work together to tackle illegal tobacco no matter where it is hidden. I would encourage the public to continue reporting this type of activity to the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000.”
The premises in Leeds and Kirklees concealed the tobacco under counters, in ceiling spaces and in vehicles outside the shops.
Trading Standards said that the haul from Operation Oil, if genuine, would be worth in excess of £53,500.
However, in street value it equates to fewer than half of the figure - at just over £20,000, with a pack of 20 cigarettes being sold at about £4 and 50g of hand-rolling tobacco for as little as £3.50.
Coun Shabir Pandor, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: "The illegal sale of tobacco in communities enables and encourages young children to buy it cheaply. It is really great that so many partners are working to tackle traders that break the law.
"I would like to thank members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”
The operation was part of the wider Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme, which is funded by public health authorities in West Yorkshire.
Now in its fourth year, the programme utilises marketing campaigns and multi-agency enforcement to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.
The programme has taken more than 1.5 million illegal cigarettes and over 650kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco off the streets so far.