Sniffer dogs found an illegal tobacco stash in false walls and a secret tunnel between shops.
Cocker spaniels Bran and Yoyo flushed out nearly 250,000 counterfeit cigarettes and more than 1,500 pouches of tobacco – with an estimated street value of around £76,000.
The hideaway was dug into the basements of shops in Gravesend, Kent.
READ MORE: Government considers ban on fruity vape flavours – meaning cigarette smoking could rise
Inspector James Beautridge, of North Kent’s Community Safety Unit, said: “The sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco poses a serious health risk to consumers and also hinders law-abiding businesses.
“Regulations are in place to ensure that the tobacco products consumed on a daily basis are as safe as possible and don’t contain unregulated ingredients.”
The news comes after calls have emerged to ban an increasingly popular alternative to cigarettes.
Fruity vapes have exploded in popularity in the UK in recent months however some are already calling for them to be banned from shelves.
The news has led to claims one in three vapers fear a ban on flavoured devices and liquids will lead them back to cigarettes.
Government considers ban on fruity vape flavours – meaning cigarette smoking could rise
A poll of 2,000 adults, who use vapes, found 76% had only just started to quit their smoking habit, while eight in ten vapers (83%) claim flavoured vapes help them pack in their smoking habits.
John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association, which commissioned the research, said: “The research shows there is a reliance on vapes to help smokers quit – and flavours have a role to play.
“While we are supportive of attempts to eradicate youth smoking, having a ban on flavours could have a negative impact on those who are attempting to quit.
“Often with these types of policies, trying to stamp out one problem can cause another, and it shows many adult vapers are concerned about what they are hearing from the Government.
“The survey has shown many fear such a change could lead them back to smoking, meaning nearly 1.5 million current vapers across the UK could return to conventional cigarettes, based on the number of adult vape users (4.3m) reported by the Office of National Statistics last year.”
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