THE smuggling of illegal cigarettes and tobacco is the “fastest growing branch of organised crimed in Bradford”, a report has revealed.

Last year the number of cigarettes seized rose by more than 1,000 per cent compared with the previous year, and the amount of rolling tobacco seized doubled.

The figures were in a document, which can not be published, was presented to members of Bradford Council at a behind-closed-doors meeting.

In the document, it said in the financial year 2016/17, there were 27,540 cigarettes seized, and last year that number rose by more than ten times to 307,140.

More than 50 kilograms of rolling tobacco were also seized, up from 24.1kg in 2016/17. The report does not make it clear whether those figures relate to Bradford or to West Yorkshire as a whole.

Councillor Simon Cooke (Conservative, Bingley Rural) is a member of the Corporate Scrutiny committee which heard the report, and raised concerns about the growing trend of tobacco being smuggled into the district.

He said: “We see this crime being reflected in the Telegraph & Argus on a near-weekly basis.

“I asked Trading Standards in the meeting if they work with police and customs on this, which they do, although it doesn’t sound like customs are being as helpful as they could be.

“I also asked if tobacco companies are involved, but they said even if they wanted to help Trading Standards are not allowed to work with these companies.

“That struck me as odd, because I get it with Public Health England, but this is not about health, it’s about stopping criminality.

“My concern is because this tobacco is being illegally distributed, it is not being sold in a regulated environment. This means the chances of it being sold to young people is increased.

“It is not being sold through regulated shops; some is, but most is being sold illicitly, out of the back of cars, in pubs and clubs and other outlets that are not regulated.

“It’s not explicitly clear in the table if it refers to Bradford or West Yorkshire, but the document was about Bradford.”

Cllr Cooke said he is concerned this spike in illegal cigarettes will impact efforts to reduce the number of people smoking in the district, and also questioned how rising excise duty on cigarettes might lead to further increases in smuggling.

“It is quite concerning this situation is growing and undermining Public Health England efforts to stop smoking.

“I think they do it because it doesn’t feel like smuggling, it’s just putting some packs of cigs in your suitcase, it’s not as risky as drugs.

“It can also be pretty profitable for them, if they can source cigarettes from somewhere where there is little or no duty and then smuggle them over here, they will not pay tax on them which in the UK is about 70 to 80 per cent of the price.

“They can sell them at a much cheaper price and still make big margins, and the higher the duty goes the more profitable it becomes.”

Earlier this week two men - Aram Ibrahim and Hounar Baker - were jailed after 700,000 illegal cigarettes were found in warehouses and shops in Bradford.

In January, 1.7 million packs of cigarettes and 86kg of tobacco were found in a warehouse in Bradford.