A sniffer dog has helped Trading Standards uncover a hidden stash of illicit tobacco worth £12,000 at two shops in Preston and Burnley.
Lancashire Police teamed up with Lancashire County Council to execute warrants at newsagents in Preston and Burnley on Wednesday (April 24).
Both shops had allegedly sold illicit tobacco during test purchasing operations and police had received a stream of intelligence to support their suspicions.
But after initial inspection of the two premises, officers were unable to locate the illicit tobacco.
A decision was then made to bring in one of Lancashire's top tobacco dogs to help uncover the hidden stash.
Pip was drafted in from specialist sniffer dog service Wagtail UK Ltd to help Trading Standards and Lancashire Police's licensing team on a return visit to the shops.
And the dog detective soon found what he was looking for.
The canny canine swiftly led officers to a flat above a shop in Preston where Pip let out an authoritative bark to announce his discovery.
A large haul of illicit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco was found hidden in the flat and seized by police.
Later that day, Pip was taken to a shop in Burnley where he then found more illicit tobacco concealed beneath a manhole cover in the backyard.
The items were a mixture of counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco, all in banned colourful child-appealing packaging, and bearing foreign health warnings.
Lancashire County Council said the illicit products confiscated from both shops had an estimated value of around £12,000
The operation was mounted with the assistance of Lancashire police, and a dog from Wagtail UK Ltd, which provides detection dogs for government agencies.
It is the latest in a number of seizures and prosecutions by Lancashire Trading Standards in recent months.
Around 200,000 illicit cigarettes and around 40kg of tobacco were confiscated from Lancashire traders in 50 separate seizures in the last 12 months.
The Council's crackdown on illicit tobacco has led to 17 criminal convictions in that same period.
Paul Noone, head of Lancashire County Council Trading Standards service, said: "The number of cases we are dealing with demonstrates the value of the illegal trade in tobacco, with some unscrupulous retailers clearly being reluctant to comply with the law on tobacco sales.
"Cheap illicit tobacco is readily available to young people and encourages them to smoke.
"The sale and manufacture of illegal tobacco has a serious impact on legitimate businesses, and our communities, and is something we're determined to tackle."
Concerned residents are advised to report all illicit tobacco sales and intelligence to the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline 03454 040506
Lancashire Police added: "Information gathered from members of the public is the only thing that allows us to continue executing warrants like these.
"Please pass any information about illegal business practices or suspicious activity to police via 101 or online reporting."