Derby City Council’s Trading Standards team are on a mission to keep illegal and counterfeit products off shelves around the city. But as they continue to crack down, sellers are finding increasingly extravagant and creative ways to try and hide such products.

On Tuesday 7 November officers carried out a joint operation with Derbyshire Police and a sniffer dog searching premises across Derby. Usually, they can expect to find illicit products hidden behind skirting boards or cupboards.

The owners of one shop had gone to extraordinarily lengths to try and keep the dodgy products hidden, installing a kitchen counter on hydraulic legs that would raise and lower at the push of a button.

But even this elaborate hideaway proved no match for the sniffer dog, and beneath it officers found more than £10,000 worth of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes.

In all, Trading Standards have seized 791,000 cigarettes and almost 140kg of hand rolling tobacco in the past year. This work has also led to an additional 5,082 illegal vapes being taken off the shelves. Altogether these seized products have an estimated value of almost £620,000.

Councillor Shiraz Khan, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regulatory Services, said:

“I’m incredibly proud of the work our Trading Standards team are doing to disrupt the sale and supply of illegal tobacco products.

“These products undermine the health of adults and children around the city, but we will continue to work hard tackling this issue.

“It is reassuring to know that no matter how elaborate the hiding places may become, our officers, and their partners, are able to track down and seize these illicit products before they reach citizens.”

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 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg 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.”

Although selling illicit and counterfeit products may seem like a victimless crime, it is far from it.

Counterfeit tobacco products can be sold for a lower price, allowing people to smoke more for less money and undermining national efforts to reduce smoking. This can be hugely detrimental to public health, particularly in Derby where we have a high rate of smoking.

Illicit tobacco also evades tax, leaving less money available to fund vital services, including ones directly impacted by smoking related issues such as healthcare.

The organised crime gangs that bring these products into the country are often linked with human trafficking, modern slavery, and the sale of other dangerous products.

You can find out more about Derby City Council Trading Standards, see product recalls, and make complaints on the Derby City Council website.