A stash of 27,000 cigarettes without appropriate health warnings were found at an off licence with the help of a sniffer dog.
A shopkeeper has been prosecuted after £8,000 worth of cigarettes were discovered at The Winestore, in Blackhall Colliery.
The sniffer dog led Durham County Council officers to the room in which they were being kept.
Shopkeeper Kamran Adil, 45, of Halterburn Close, Gosforth, has been ordered to pay more than £1,800 after being prosecuted by the council for breaching tobacco safety regulations.
Peterlee Magistrates Court heard how council consumer protection officers visited the Middle Street shop accompanied by search dogs Jack and Buster in March following a complaint.
The curt heard Adil was the only person in the store, and during an inspection, one of the dogs led officers to a door in the store room at the rear of the premises.
The goods Adil was storing not only breached the rules on health warnings but also evaded duty and were unregulatedJoanne Waller
Adil initially stated that the door belonged to the people upstairs, and that he only owned the ground floor of the property. He denied anything behind the door belonged to him.
But, upon realising that the officers could force the door open, he produced a key and unlocked it.
Behind the door was a large stash of cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco.
More cigarettes were found in a leather jacket hanging up behind the counter.
In all, there were 873 packs of 20 Blue Brass cigarettes – 17,460 in all, 512 packs of 20 Jim cigarettes – 10,240 in total and 14.75 kilograms of Turner hand rolling tobacco in 50 gram packs.
The court heard all the items contravened legislation, which requires a pictorial health warning be displayed on one of the most visible surfaces of the packet.
Some also had warnings written in foreign languages, with the legislation requiring they be in English.
Adil told officers he had bought the cigarettes in the jacket from a customer, for £4 per pack.
He said he was storing the cigarettes and tobacco in the store room for a friend, who he would not name.
The total street value of the goods was estimated at between £7,900 and £8,125.
Adil pleaded guilty to three charges under the Tobacco Products (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale)(Safety) Regulations 2002.
He apologised and said he had “tried to do a lad a favour”.
Magistrates fined Adil £1,000 and ordered him to pay costs of £722.77 and a victim surcharge of £100 – a total of £1,822.77.
The court also ordered forfeiture and destruction of the goods seized.
Joanne Waller, the council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “The goods Adil was storing not only breached the rules on health warnings but also evaded duty and were unregulated.
“His actions were potentially harmful to the health of County Durham residents while the sale of the items he stored would clearly have an impact on legitimate traders in the area who do pay duty.
“We obviously want members of the public to give up smoking due to the damage it causes to their and others’ health.
“But if people are buying cigarettes and tobacco we would strongly urge them not to buy unregulated products which may be even less safe than regulated items.
“Finally, I’d like to thank Jack and Buster for their part in getting this illicit tobacco off our streets.”
Smokers who want to give up can contact County Durham’s smoking cessation team on 0800 7720565, text QUIT to 66777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about suspected illegal tobacco sellers can be reported in confidence via the illegal tobacco hotline 0300 999 0000 or by emailing email@example.com