A HUGE haul of suspected illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been seized in Keighley.

Police say 13,000 cigs and 227 pouches of tobacco, together worth over £9,000, were found.

The discovery came after three teenage girls were approached by officers regarding alleged tobacco-related offences, and intelligence led police to a shop.

A man was subsequently arrested and enquiries are continuing.

The incident comes as a report reveals that the smuggling of illegal cigarettes and tobacco is the “fastest growing branch of organised crime” in the district.

Last year, the number of cigarettes seized rose by more than 1,000 per cent compared with the previous 12 months, and the amount of rolling tobacco seized doubled.

The figures are in a document which was presented to members of Bradford Council at a behind-closed-doors meeting.

In the financial year 2016/17, there were 27,540 cigarettes seized, and last year that number soared to 307,140.

More than 50 kilograms of rolling tobacco were also seized, up from 24.1kg in 2016/17.

Bingley Rural councillor Simon Cooke – a member of the corporate scrutiny committee, which considered the report – raised concerns about the growing trend.

He said after the meeting: “I asked Trading Standards during the meeting if they work with police and customs on this, which they do.

“My concern is because this tobacco is being illegally distributed, it is not being sold in a regulated environment. This means the chances of it being sold to young people are increased.

“Most is being sold illicitly, out of the back of cars, in pubs and clubs and other outlets that are not regulated.”

Cllr Cooke says he is concerned that the spike in illegal cigarettes will impact efforts to reduce the number of people smoking in the district, and he also questioned how rising excise duty on cigarettes might lead to further increases in smuggling.

“It is quite concerning this situation is growing and undermining Public Health England efforts to stop smoking,” he added.

“I think people do it because it doesn’t feel like smuggling – to them it’s just putting some packs of cigs in your suitcase, it’s not as risky as drugs.”

Last week two men – Aram Ibrahim and Hounar Baker – were jailed after 700,000 illegal cigarettes were found in warehouses and shops in Bradford.