MORE than 19,000 illegal cigarettes were seized after raids on three shops.
Portsmouth City Council’s trading standards team, backed by police and Customs officers, used two sniffer dogs to find the illicit tobacco at three shops in central Portsmouth.
The shops were targeted after tip-offs that cigarettes were being hidden in shops and sold under the counter.
The cigarettes, worth about £5,000, were seized with up to a kilo of rolling tobacco.
Peter Emmett, the council’s trading standards manager, said: ‘This is a very large haul, none of which would’ve been found without the dogs, as the packets were hidden away in back rooms, in rubbish bins and in cars.’
Mr Emmett said the produce was not only a danger to public health, but that its sale also hindered local trade.
‘The people who produce and trade in this stuff are not only dodging taxes,’ he said.
‘They are also undermining businesses who play by the rules, and endangering the public.
‘Dodgy cigarettes, often counterfeit versions of well-known brands, are made with no controls or quality checks, using the cheapest materials, so they can contain very high levels of nicotine, tar and heavy metals.’
He urged anyone with information about the sale of illicit tobacco to report it to the council by calling (023) 9283 4092 .
This latest swoop comes only days after Jielong Xiao, a Chinese national who was studying in Portsmouth, was jailed for 18 weeks for importing 33,040 cigarettes using packages which were labelled as containing as plastic toys and shoes.
The 25-year-old, of Steerforth Close, pleaded guilty to harbouring or dealing with tobacco products with the intent to defraud the duty payable at Portsmouth Crown Court. The cigarettes were destroyed.