Thousands of packets of illegal cigarettes and tobacco which could contain human poo, asbestos and rat droppings have been seized in a series of raids across the borough yesterday.
Officers from Barking and Dagenham Council swooped on businesses suspected of selling the illicit goods as part of a London-wide clampdown.
Fakes of well known brands including Kent, Marlborough and Golden Virginia were discovered by sniffer dogs which accompanied officers during the swoop.
In total around 3,000 items were confiscated and those caught selling them could face court action.
Illegal tobacco products are unregulated, untaxed and often sold much cheaper under-the-counter at ‘pocket money’ prices which could be tempting to children.
In addition Councillor Laila Butt, cabinet member for enforcement and community safety, warned that they could contain undesirable ingredients.
She said: “Illegal cigarettes are often packed with all kinds of nasty stuff, like mouse droppings or chemicals.
“It may be tempting to some smokers struggling to make ends meet to buy cut price cigarettes but you would be endangering your health.
“As a council we will be relentless in our pursuit of businesses who do not play by the rules and we will prosecute.”
It is estimated that criminals are make more than £100 million a year selling illegal cigarettes with a third of smokers saying they have been offered products.
In May, a study by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) confirmed Cllr Butt’s concerns after it revealed that the ingredients in many of the “under the counter” cigarettes included asbestos, human excrement, mould, dust, dead flies and rat droppings.
As part of yesterday’s operation a roadshow was set up in Barking town centre by London Trading Standard (LTS) to highlight the dangers of illegal tobacco products.
Steve Playle from LTS, said: “It is important for this work to be targeted to protect the health and well-being of Londoners and we hope that the roadshows will encourage more intelligence to be gathered.
“We work hard to advise businesses of their responsibilities but take robust action to identify those criminals who flout the law and bring them before the courts.”
Read also other criminal news of London.