Officials are warning businesses in the county “if you sell illegal tobacco products, we are coming after you”.
It comes after 9,000 suspected illegal cigarettes were seized following an operation in Lynn yesterday.
In a collaborative effort between Trading Standards, Norfolk Police, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and Environmental Health, a number of premises were targeted in an intelligence-led campaign.
Around 30 people and four sniffer dogs were used to locate the products within the shops, which officials say would be near-impossible to find without the expert canines.
An estimated 1,000 cigarettes were discovered in an extractor fan unit at Lynn Express in Norfolk Street, and officials are concerned about the effects illegal products can have on people’s health.
Brian Chatten, community safety and fair trading manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “Illegal tobacco is a big issue in Norfolk, as it is for the rest of the UK. One of our greatest concerns is that it’s being sold at pocket money prices and that young people can get hold of it.
“One of the main drivers for us is in terms of public health. When these illegal products are made, there is little chance that there is regulation about how they are put together. If people smoke these products, they are taking a gamble on what they are actually getting – we have found arsenic, asbestos and variable heavy metals in these products in the past.”
Officials are hoping operations of this kind will deter people from the illegal activity, and encourage members of the public to report it to them.
After a raid on Kubus on London Road found suspected illegal tobacco products including 250 cigarettes and 150g rolling tobacco, a neighbouring shop worker told of how this trade can hurt others nearby.
Srikanth Kaliyaperumal, manager of Carders News and Off Licence on London Road, said the illegal trade has had a knock-on effect on his business.
Mr Kaliyaperumal said: “This has been very bad for our business. We sell a packet of legal cigarettes for £9.59, but an illegal packet can be sold for £3.50.
“I’m happy about the raids because we are losing customers. Everyday we get people coming in and telling us that this is happening.”
Licensing hearings for Kubus and Lynn Express are due to take place today, after it was revealed earlier in the week that Trading Standards officials described the licence holder for both premises as “wholly unsuitable”.