A MAJOR operation in Bradford targeting dealers of cheap and illicit tobacco saw more than 210,000 cigarettes seized. 

Police from the Bradford West and East areas and West Yorkshire Trading  Standards (WYTS) swooped on premises in the city as part of the operation. 

If genuine, the value of the cigarettes seized would be over £100,000, with a loss of duty to the taxpayer of more than £60,000.

A large quantity of cash was also seized, believed to be the proceeds of crime from the sales of illicit tobacco.

A WYTS spokesperson said: "A total of four premises were visited across Bradford in which illegal practices were taking place.

"The operation targeted hot spot areas and businesses identified from intelligence and complaints passed to West Yorkshire Trading Standards by members of the public and partner agencies.

"Illicit tobacco was hidden in a chair, in a hydraulic concealment built in to the wall and in vehicles as well as a nearby house."

Sergeant Richard Bedford said: “Officers from Bradford East and West Neighbourhood Policing Team, working in partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards, attended a number of premises and seized thousands of illegal cigarettes.

"This will help to disrupt local organised crime groups and is a great example of successful partnership work.”

The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme aims to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. 

To date, it has taken nearly seven million illicit cigarettes and two-and-a-half tonnes of illicit hand rolling tobacco off the streets of West Yorkshire.

With more inspections planned in the coming weeks, the figures are set to increase. Training sessions with thousands of members of the public and hundreds of frontline professionals have been delivered to raise awareness about the dangers and wider criminality associated with the supply of illicit tobacco.

Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager, said: “Although a lot has been achieved, illegal tobacco is still a problem. While all smoking kills, illegal tobacco is a danger to health, particularly to young people, as it is sold at 'pocket money prices', making it easy for children to start.

"It also encourages other crimes in our communities. It is linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds. Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell these illegal products in order to pay off debts or fearing harm to themselves or their families.”

Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards, added: “Smoking rates in the UK are declining. Reducing the supply and demand of illegal tobacco is one important element of a comprehensive approach to tackling tobacco harm in communities.

"It is key to addressing smoking-related health inequalities and poverty, playing a key role in preventing young people from starting to smoke. I would like to thank all the partners and members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities.”