ALMOST 20,000 illegal cigarettes have been found in a series of surprise raids in Burton.
Illicit tobacco worth around £14,000 was seized during a major operation to try to clamp down on what is a rising problem in the area.
Staffordshire County Council trading standards officers visited 13 shops in East Staffordshire, the majority of which were in the town, and found 19,850 cigarettes and 7.75kg of tobacco.
Eight arrests were made in connection with the raids.
The operation was supported by Staffordshire Police, East Staffordshire Borough Council and HMRC.
Staffordshire County Council's trading standards leader Gill Heath said: "The sale of illicit tobacco is a crime which damages communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.
"This operation demonstrates that we take this issue seriously.
"We target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on.
"Now we can reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act from criminal activity in Staffordshire.
"This is good news for Staffordshire as we're helping to keep people safe at no extra cost."
Nearly £35,000 funding from proceeds of crime is being used to tackle the problem of counterfeit and untaxed tobacco and booze.
Counterfeit alcohol can contain hazardous chemicals which can seriously damage people's health, while illicit tobacco often contains harmful substances.
Councillor Heath said: "The availability of illegal tobacco and alcohol in Staffordshire is no greater than anywhere else but does present a significant problem.
"The county council has worked hard to combat the sale of illicit alcohol and tobacco in recent years.
"We have received a great deal of information from local people on shops and individuals suspected of selling illicit tobacco products, which plays a big part in our operations."