ILLEGAL tobacco has been seized off the streets of Blackpool after an operation to crack down on dodgy shop traders.
Officers From Blackpool Council’s Trading Standards department launched surprise raids on shops across the resort yesterday to seize smuggled and counterfeit tobacco.
Three people were arrested after officers discovered illicit smuggled tobacco hidden away in two shops on Central Drive.
In a morning raid tobacco – concealed in walls and under counters and destined for sale to the resort’s smokers – was discovered by specially-trained sniffer dogs Ozzie and Levi.
The officer in charge of the case – who does not want to be named to protect his identity – said: “We found a concealment in a wall after the dog indicated.
“It’s smuggled tobacco and we would never have found that without the dog.”
It is the second time Trading Standards has used the specially-trained dogs to assist in raids specifically designed to target illegal tobacco.
The officer said: “We are acting on intelligence and we also re-visited some of the premises we targeted last time and got good results from.
“They are upping the ante in relation to where they are hiding it, so in response we are upping the ante which is why we are using tactics such as the dogs, because if there is tobacco in a premises the dogs are going to find it.”
One of the first premises visited by the team yesterday morning was M and G Accessories, on Central Drive.
No illegal tobacco was found in the premises but owner Marie Nicholson, who opened the shop in December, said she welcomed the use of search tactics by the Trading Standards department.
She said: “I’d like to see the people who aren’t running reputable businesses clamped down on. The area needs lifting and operations like this will help.”
In another raid in the afternoon, at a second business on Central Drive, a 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of smuggling counterfeit tobacco.
Health risks are one of the key reasons Trading Standards are keen to seize the illicit goods, and the officer said in the past residents have been hospitalised with blood poisoning after smoking counterfeit tobacco.
Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for public protection and housing, said: “This operation shows two things; firstly that Blackpool Council is committed to tackling illicit tobacco which is responsible for a large percentage of tobacco sales to young people and secondly that man’s best friend can be a remarkable tool in the fight against crime and disorder.
Resident Susan Brown, 57, who lives on Erdington Road in the town centre, said: “I think it’s always a good thing because (counterfeit cigarettes) are not good for your health.
“I’ve got a 16-year-old lad and I would not want him getting hold of them, I’m glad Trading Standards are acting.”
And Stephen Johnson, who also lives in the town centre, said: “I would like to see a lot more of them clamping down.”