Over 36,000 illegal and counterfeit cigarettes were discovered by detector dogs YoYo and Cooper during raids in Reading.
In a series of inspections along Oxford Road on the morning of Thursday, June 24, PCSOs of Trading Standards and Thames Valley Police discovered the questionable goods despite attempts to defeat the searches.
Some stores used electromagnets, hydraulic lifts, and spices in an attempt to trick sniffer dogs.
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But YoYo and Cooper were the show’s real stars, allowing authorities to seize thousands of illegal items that can encourage children to become addicted and end up hurting families in need.
The visits took place as part of Operation CeCe, a National Trade Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to combat illegal tobacco.
YoYo and Cooper were manipulated by Stuart Phillips of BWY Canine during the raids.
Illegal tobacco products are cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco that have been smuggled, pirated or are counterfeit.
Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, benefits cash-strapped families and helps fund organized crime, according to the Reading Borough Council.
Ruth McEwan, the Reading Borough Council’s senior advisor for regulatory services, which includes Trading Standards, said: “Detection dogs can find tobacco and cigarettes hidden in the most unlikely places.
“Violators need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to sell these illegal products.
“I hope this will also make traders think twice about stocking these products.
“Those involved in illegal tobacco trafficking can encourage people, including children, to smoke by providing a cheap source of cigarettes and tobacco. “
To report sources of illegal tobacco, contact the Illegal Tobacco hotline on 0300 999 6 999 (information may be left anonymously).
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