Illicit tobacco has been discovered in a series of raids at shops in Northampton.
Almost 6,000 packets of illicit cigarettes and over 200 packs of illicit hand rolling tobacco where uncovered in six raids in Northampton shops.
Some of the tobacco was hidden behind pipes in a stock room toilet and more was found hidden in the top of a fridge.
Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards department, supported by Northamptonshire Police and customs officials targeted six shops in the raids with trained sniffer dogs.
Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage (Con, East Hunsbury & Shelfleys), the council’s cabinet member for public protection said: “Sales of illegal cigarettes are usually done under the counter, as the tobacco is often either smuggled or counterfeit and hasn’t been put through proper quality control processes.
“Sales of illegal tobacco harm the interests of honest businesses and can be vastly more dangerous than legitimate tobacco, with high levels of nicotine, tar and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
“Some samples have even been found to contain rat droppings and asbestos.”
The smuggling of tobacco costs the UK economy nearly £3 billion and is often linked to organised crime.
Around 22 per cent of cigarettes smoked in the East Midlands avoid UK tax and the penalty for these offences could include fines and imprisonment.