Sniffer dogs employed by Kingston Council (RBK) found over 5 kilos of illicit tobacco in raids conducted late last week in the borough.

The actions stemmed from a partnership forged between RBK, the HMRC Revenue and Customs body and Wagtail UK detection dogs.

Milo and Molly from Wagtail helped investigating officers track down 5.55kg of illicit shisha tobacco with a sale value of £1,000.

At a different property, 33 packets of unregulated tobacco leaves were also found thanks to the diligent dogs.

The shops were identified through shared intelligence between RBK's Trading Standards team and HMRC who are aiming to do more in the fight against illegal tobacco production.

Cllr Andreas Kirsch, portfolio holder with responsibility for Trading Standards at Kingston Council, said buying under-the-counter cigarettes meant a direct link to criminal activity.

"This operation shows that our Trading Standards will continue to take the necessary action to reduce the trade of illegal tobacco products in the borough.

"Buying cheap or smuggled ‘under the counter’ cigarettes isn’t a bargain - it means trading with criminals.

"The information we get from the public is vital in helping us get these unsafe and counterfeit items off the streets - so please report it," Cllr Kirsch said.

A spokesperson for RBK offered further information about how some of the latest research has shown that illegal tobacco is a continuing and serious problem in London.

They said that a third of smokers were offered illegal tobacco in the last year, and that sellers of illicit tobacco often targeted children.

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence.

Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously via the stop illegal tobacco website or by calling Trading Standards on 03454 040506 or Crime Stoppers on 0800555111.