Sniffer dogs helped discover more than £4,000 worth of contraband cigarettes and packets of tobacco in raids carried out by Sefton Council Trading Standards team.

The illegal items were seized after seven retail premises were visited in Bootle, Litherland and Southport by Trading Standards and black labradors Murphy and Ozzie.

The seizure included counterfeit and non-duty paid products which cannot be legally sold in the UK and came about following information given to Trading Standards by the public.

The two sniffer dogs, provided by Wagtail UK Ltd, helped detect the concealed stashes of tobacco at four premises they raided.

Sefton Council Trading Standards manager, Andrew Naisbitt, said “Traders often conceal illegal tobacco in unusual places and following this round of raids items were discovered in children’s lunchboxes.

“This just shows the lengths people go to store contraband items but by working with the highly trained tobacco dogs, this means there are no longer any hiding places for them.”

Cllr Trish Hardy, Cabinet Member Communities and Environment, added: “This is the second time we have used the sniffer dogs and yet again it proved to a huge success.

“We will always take action against anybody who chooses to trade in illegal tobacco to protect legitimate traders and help our Public Health partners in reducing the numbers of people who smoke.”

No arrests were made following the raids but investigations are ongoing into where the illegal tobacco came from.

Andrea Crossfield, Director of Tobacco Free Futures, said “We, along with partners such as HM Revenue and Customs and local authorities including Sefton Council, have been working successfully to cut the supply of and demand for cheap illegal tobacco.

“It’s low price and easy availability encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders. This enforcement action is therefore welcomed.”

Anyone with information regarding the sale of illegal tobacco should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06, Trading Standards North West Illicit Tobacco Team on 01925 442 466 or the confidential Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111

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