Sniffer dogs hunt for illegal tobacco in Barnstaple

Posted on: 2 November 2015

Local enforcement teams and their sniffer dogs took to the streets of Barnstaple on to ask for the public’s help in tackling the sellers of illegal tobacco.

Around one in 20 smokers in Devon smoke illegal tobacco – and because of its cheap price it often leads children to start smoking.

Officers from Devon and Somerset Trading Standards supported by Smokefree South West were joined by  specially trained tobacco detection dogs, Scamp, Phoebe and Yoyo at the Illegal Tobacco Mobile Unit at Barnstaple Tesco, Station Road.

The are all ex-rescue dogs, and they helped officers sniff out thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco which is often hidden behind fake walls or in unusual locations.

The information about where the illegal tobacco is being sold has often come from members of the public.

The “Keep It Out” campaign aims to help the public know what illegal tobacco looks like; what the dangers are and encourages them to keep their eyes open and report illegal tobacco being sold in their neighbourhood.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Health and Wellbeing said: “All tobacco is harmful but illegal tobacco poses an additional threat to our children and communities because it is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested in asking for proof of age. This isn’t just about shops and retail premises. Younger people are more likely to visit ‘fag houses’ to buy cigarettes. This puts them into risky situations with adults who might also be selling alcohol or drugs, or who might take the opportunity to exploit the relationship with the young person that builds up over time.”

Councillor Roger Croad, DCC’s Cabinet Member responsible for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards said: “Trading Standards along with Public Health colleagues are determined to crack down on the sale and supply of illegal tobacco.

“It is one of our top priorities for action, not only because smoking remains one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death but we also know that the availabiity of cheap, illegal tobacco makes it harder for people to give up smoking.”

Since the campaign first launched, the number of smokers buying illegal tobacco in the South West has fallen from 20 per cent of smokers in 2010, to 16 per cent in 2013.

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