An illicit tobacco operation by Trading Standards uncovered 20,000 cigarettes and 4kg of tobacco at three shops in Scarborough, some of which was carefully concealed in a hidden wall cavity.
The intelligence-led operation sought to crack down on illegal tobacco supply across Scarborough using specialist detection dogs, which found the hidden cigarettes which would not have otherwise been discovered during the raids.
Cllr Derek Bastiman, North Yorkshire County Council's Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: "The supply of illicit tobacco will not be tolerated. We will continue to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to these matters and use every enforcement technique at our disposal to disrupt this activity."
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Illicit tobacco includes cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco that is counterfeit or has been smuggled into Britain without tax having been paid.
It is far cheaper than genuine tobacco, which makes it more accessible to smokers and therefore makes quitting more difficult. Its supply has also been linked to funding organised crime.
Offenders could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison if found in possession for supply, as well as having stock confiscated.
North Yorkshire County Council's Tobacco Control Strategy aims to make tobacco less desirable and supports the regional initiative Breathe 2025, which works to ensure children are born and raised in a place free from tobacco.
Louise Wallace, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, said: "All tobacco is harmful, but the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes make it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke-free. For those who want to quit, there is help available."
Smokers in North Yorkshire wanting to quit can access Living Well Smokefree, which provides free one-to-one behavioural and motivational support as well as access to stop-smoking products to help people kick the habit. For details, call 01609 797 272 or visit the council's website.
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can call the Illegal Tobacco Reporting Line on 0300 999 0000 or use the online reporting form at Keep It Out.
The three Scarborough businesses have not been publicly named to avoid prejudicing any future criminal proceedings.