Sniffer dogs Ted and Buster have been brought in by Housing and Public Protection at Northumberland County Council to help with the fight against illegal tobacco.
The specially-trained dogs were drafted in by Trading Standards team to check newsagents and pubs for cheap black market tobacco containing potentially dangerous ingredients.
Buster is a spaniel and Ted is a Labrador cross and a former rescue dog. Both have been trained specifically to target the scent of tobacco products and are able to assist officers in finding hidden stashes in more unusual places. During their working life, they have uncovered millions of pounds worth of illegal tobacco.
Last week, unannounced searches were carried out at premises in Blyth, Seaton Delaval, Lynemouth, and Berwick. A small seizure of tobacco was made in Berwick.
The dogs, from company Wagtail, and their handler were brought in following complaints of illegal tobacco trading in the county, and have been funded by the Department of Health.
Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, planning and resilience, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco not only avoids taxation, it undermines legitimate businesses in the county that abide by the law and puts money into the hands of criminals.
“Far from being a victimless crime, cheap tobacco makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime.
“What is not always understood by users of cheap tobacco, is that it often contains higher levels of toxic ingredients, thereby increasing the existing risk of illness and disease from smoking. Fake cigarettes also present a higher fire risk.
“On a positive note, having undertaken a number of visits across Northumberland, the dogs only found a small amount of illegal tobacco.”
Concerns can be made confidentially to Trading Standards on 0345 600 6400.