More than 14,000 illegal cigarettes and 1.4kg of tobacco has been found concealed in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture in shops in Northamptonshire.
As part of a crackdown led by the Department of Health and managed by the Trading Standards Institute, a series of searches were carried out over an eight day period at premises across the county.
The majority of seizures were made at small independent shops in the county, including a number in Northampton.
The searches involved specialist detection dogs provided by Wagtail UK who worked alongside Trading Standards officers.
In the East Midlands, 132,000 illegal cigarettes and 750kg of hand rolling tobacco was seized.
André González de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “Those involved in dealing illegal tobacco products may be encouraging people, including children, to smoke by selling them cheaply.
“This operation provided a fantastic opportunity for Trading Standards officers to work with the specialist detection dogs to find tobacco and cigarettes even if they’re hidden in the most unlikely places.
“I hope this targeted crackdown sends the message to offenders that they will face action if they deal in these illegal products.”
Nine per cent of all cigarettes and 36 per cent of all rolling tobacco smoked in this country is believed to be illicit.
Trading Standards Institute chief executive Leon Livermore said: “This co-operative work taken against illegal tobacco is a brilliant demonstration of how trading standards services and our partners work behind the scenes to protect the public.
“It is vital that this important work is recognised in the region, and that the long reaching effects of this operation are understood. Trading standards officers help reduce smoking prevalence, prevent children from smoking and damage a criminal enterprise’s ability to raise money.”
Members of the public can report anyone they suspect is selling illicit cigarettes or tobacco by phoning Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.