PEMBROKESHIRE-TRAINED sniffer dogs have helped locate millions of pounds of illegal tobacco across the UK, set against a backdrop that two-thirds of smokers in Wales have bought illegal cigarettes or tobacco.

A survey of 1,000 smokers in Wales, conducted for major cigarette company Japan Tobacco International (JTI) by Atomik Research, showed 59 per cent of smokers in the country have bought illegal cigarettes or illegal hand rolling tobacco.

JTI owns well-known UK brands including Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut and Camel.

In the last six years sniffer dogs trained in Pembrokeshire have located over £12m of illegal tobacco with Trading Standards and Customs teams across the UK.

Findings from the JTI survey include the increased health risks due to unknown ingredients (59 per cent), with just over a third concerned that they might be funding organised criminal gangs.

Mystery shopping carried out by JTI in South Wales revealed a third (32 per cent) of stores visited were selling illegal tobacco. The typical price for a counterfeit 50g pack of illegal hand rolling tobacco was either £4.50 or £5 (versus around £21.60 for genuine products).

The UK government estimates that illegal tobacco makes up around 15 per cent of the cigarette market and 28 per cent of the hand rolling tobacco market in the UK. This has resulted in £2.5bn of lost tax revenue in 2016/7, with a total revenue loss of £43.5bn since 2000/1.

Steve Wilkins, JTI’s Anti-Illegal Trade Operations Director and former Detective Chief Superintendent at Dyfed Powys Police, said: “Smokers buying cheap fake cigarettes and tobacco on the streets of Wales may be getting more than they bargain for as fake imitations have been found to contain asbestos, mould, dust, dead flies, rat droppings and even human excrement.”

He added: “Illegal tobacco is damaging our local community, funding organised crime and undermining local businesses. We all have a role to play to combat the issue and JTI calls on retailers and members of the public to join our Don’t Be Complicit In Illicit campaign and help rid the streets of illegal tobacco.”

Visit or contact HMRC’s Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.

Stuart Phillips, the director of Llandissilio-based B.W.Y Canine Ltd, has been involved in training sniffer dogs.