A CANINE hero has helped bag more than £6,000 of illegal tobacco smuggled into Southampton.

Tests on illegal tobacco have found traces of “asbestos, rat droppings, dead insects and human excrement.”

But Cooper the dog has sniffed out a total of 519 packets of cigarettes and illegal tobacco valued at around £6,000.

The goods were seized following raids on two Southampton shops and a storage unit on Monday.

Some of the haul is believed to have been smuggled into the country illegally, while the rest is thought to be counterfeit.

Cooper the “tobacco detection dog” belongs to B.W.Y. Canine and worked alongside the city council’s Trading Standards unit and Hampshire Police during the operation.

The tobacco products may have been made abroad, or made in illegal UK warehouses with no safety standards, according to the council.

Commenting on the operation, Cllr Dave Shields, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, said: “Counterfeit tobacco is not only illegal, but can be hazardous to your health. Tests of previous seizures of illicit tobacco have shown that a pack of loose tobacco contains contaminants like asbestos, rat droppings, dead insects and human excrement.

“When you buy illegal tobacco, you may also be helping more serious organised crime linked to the sales of illicit tobacco.

“For instance, a packet of 20 Marlboro cigarettes purchased in some countries costs £1.21. These packets are then sold at approximately £6 each in the UK illegal trade (5x profit per packet) compared with £11 for a packet sold by a legitimate trader.

“Finally, buying cheap tobacco also makes it more accessible to young people at a time--in the midst of a respiratory virus pandemic when you could be considering quitting.

If you would like to stop smoking, the #QuitforCovid campaign on Twitter offers online support and advice.”

To report illicit tobacco products call 0300 999 6999.