Sniffing out illegal tobacco in Buckinghamshire

In a bid to tackle sales of illegal tobacco, officers from Buckinghamshire Council’s Public Health team, Live Well Stay Well Bucks, Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards and Pippa the dog from Wagtail UK took to the streets of Aylesbury and High Wycombe to ask for the public’s help to crack down on this criminal activity.

The aim of the roadshows was to educate the public about how to spot the signs of illegal tobacco including what the risk and dangers are, and how to report sales. The teams also welcomed anonymous tips and offered guidance on where local support is available to help people stop smoking.

Over the two roadshows, the teams spoke to approximately 100 people which included seven referrals to Live Well Stay Well and five pieces of information about illegal tobacco sales in Buckinghamshire.

Sniffer dog Pippa was also on hand to demonstrate her skills at seeking out illegal tobacco.

Brad, Pippa’s handler, commented:

“Pippa is a 6-year-old rescue dog and has detected hundreds of thousands of cigarettes, significant amounts of tobacco and tens of thousands of pounds in cash. Stashes are often hidden behind fake walls or in unusual locations secured by electro-magnets and operated by remote control devices. Pippa was an unwanted dog, so it’s very rewarding for us to be able to use her natural abilities and train her into a ‘crime-fighting’ sniffer dog.”

Cllr Angela Macpherson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, commented:

“All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco poses an additional threat to our children and communities.

“Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund low-level and large-scale organised crime. People selling cheap, illegal tobacco at pocket-money prices are likely to be selling other things illegally (drugs, fake branded goods and alcohol), exposing Buckinghamshire’s children to more dangers.

“Not only does smoking remain one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death but we also know that the availability of cheap, illegal tobacco helps recruit the next generation of smokers and undermines initiatives to help adults quit smoking.”

A spokesperson from Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, commented:

“There is a lot of work being done across the county to tackle illegal tobacco, but we need the eyes and ears of the public to support us in our efforts to stamp it out and protect our communities. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can do so anonymously online to Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards at or call the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 6 999.”

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence.

Find out more about how to spot the signs of illegal tobacco.