A multi-agency operation between North East Lincolnshire Council, Humberside Police and a specialist search dog unit has seen a large haul of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes seized from various businesses in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
North East Lincolnshire Council’s commercial regulatory team, including Trading Standards, alongside Humberside Police, and supported by specialist search dogs from B.W.Y Canine Ltd, visited three businesses in Freeman Street, one in Cleethorpes and another in Grimsby, on Thursday 19 January.
Dressed in plain clothes, the raids were part of an intelligence-led operation targeting illicit tobacco dealers, which comes under Operation CeCe – a joint venture between National Trading Standards and HMRC.
In total, 172,000 cigarettes (8,600 packs), 79.25kg of tobacco (1,585 pouches), 1.15kg of Shisha, and 1,662 illegal disposable vapes were seized during the operation.
An estimated value for the cigarettes and tobacco would be a street value of £60,435 and a legitimate value of £149,552. The legitimate value of the vapes would be £18,282.
Officers will review their findings and follow-up with enforcement action where necessary.
Councillor Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities, said: “This joint operation shows just how important it is to work together. Multi-agency operations such as these are keeping these products, that do not meet safety standards and are putting lives at risk, off the streets. We know illicit and fake cigarettes do not comply with the Reduced Ignition Propensity requirements and won’t self-extinguish, so are likely to start a fire.
“When you buy these products, you could be putting your own health at risk. Not only has no duty been paid on them but they’ve not been tested to ensure they’re safe.
“You can make a difference by reporting any suspicions you may have to Trading Standards on [email protected] or call (01472) 326299, option 3.”
Inspector Matt Stringer, Neighbourhood Policing Inspector for Grimsby East, said: “We deployed our teams in support of North East Lincolnshire Council during this important operation to combat illicit cigarettes and tobacco within North East Lincolnshire. This operation demonstrates the importance of different agencies working together in order to make our communities safer, which my teams are absolutely committed to doing.”
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”
Since the commencement of Operation CeCe in January 2021, the council’s Trading Standards team have seized more than 1,083,220 illegal cigarettes (54,161 packs) and 332.2kg of tobacco (6,644 pouches), with a legitimate value of £833,701 and a street value of over £343,889.