A roadshow educating the public about the dangers of potentially lethal illegal tobacco has visited venues across Wolverhampton this week. The Illegal Tobacco Unit has toured sites around the city as the latest weapon in the city council’s fight against fake cigarettes. It comes as part of the council-led Operation Riposte which has seen a number of successful and high profile raids on shops selling fake and non-duty paid cigarettes and alcohol.

More than £200,000 worth of items have been seized during the raids and two stores in the Whitmore Reans neighbourhood had their licences revoked as a result. As well as the strong enforcement action, the council decided to bring the Illegal Tobacco Roadshow to the city to educate the public about the issues. The public were able to speak to Trading Standards and Public Health officers as well as meet sniffer dogs which have been used to hunt out the elaborate places illegal tobacco gets hidden to try and avoid detection.

The dogs, provided by BWY Canine, demonstrated their amazing detection abilities and proved extremely popular. Visitors heard about the health dangers from illegal tobacco which can often be filled with far higher levels of toxins than normal cigarettes. The roadshow has been to Sainsbury’s Wednesfield, Morrisons Bilston and the city centre.

Cllr Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment, said: “Education is just as important as enforcement when it comes to illegal tobacco. The public need to understand how dangerous this stuff can be. “Clearly there is a market out there for these cheap cigarettes – but there is a reason they are cheap. They are often filled with toxins and nasty substances and can kill.

“The people who produce and import these items of course don’t pay tax either – so the public purse is being cheated out of millions of pounds which could be used to pay for schools, hospitals and other essential services. “City of Wolverhampton Council is very proud of our successes with Operation Riposte which is targeting premises selling fake tobacco. We have revoked the licences of two shops and we will continue to tackle this harmful trade.”