Officers from Luton Borough Council’s Trading Standards service along with police support from Operation Sentinel uncovered a major store of illegal tobacco products in Luton.
They visited two premises in Leagrave Road believed to be linked with a supply of illegal tobacco at a shop on Dunstable Road.
Acting on intelligence, officers had to break into a garage at the rear of one property after the owner claimed not to have access, they found 289,500 cigarettes, 62.3kg of hand rolling tobacco and 167.2kg of other tobacco products. In monetary values, the cigarettes are estimated to be worth £130,000, the hand rolling tobacco £22,500 and other tobacco products around £15,000. The team had to call in extra vehicles to transport the haul, the size of which exceeded expectations.
Officers believe the seized items include counterfeit products, which pose an additional risk as the user does not know what they are inhaling and also cigarettes which fail the “reduced ignition propensity” test, a standard that requires unattended cigarette to self-extinguish.
The introduction of this standard gas been shown to result in a significant reduction in fire deaths caused by unattended cigarettes, so any illegal product poses a serious risk.
Councillor Rachel Hopkins said: “This is the largest single haul of illegal tobacco found in Luton by council officers and we believe that this will have an impact on the supply of illegal tobacco in Luton.
“As well as harming the local economy, increased availability of cheap tobacco has the potential to increase tobacco usage and the associated health risks.
“This is an excellent example of council and police working together to tackle organised crime, protect the public and legitimate businesses.”
The products found will now be subject to formal testing as part of an ongoing investigation.
If you believe someone is supplying illegal tobacco products you can report it to Trading Standards on 01582 547262.