Illegal tobacco and alcohol has been seized from five shops in Burnley and Pendle in joint raids by Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service and Lancashire Constabulary. Operations over the past fortnight have netted nearly 400 packs of illegal tobacco and 36 bottles of vodka.
The vodka was a legitimate product but had not been intended for the UK market. Officers suspect the original labels had been replaced to show import duty had been paid, when in fact it hadn’t.
The tobacco was a mixture of completely fake brands and legitimate products which should not be sold in the UK as import duty had not been paid and health warnings were in a foreign language.
Illegal tobacco is often sold at less than half the price of tobacco upon which duty has been paid. Research has shown such cheap tobacco encourages young people to start smoking and provides an incentive for existing smokers who may otherwise quit to keep up their habit.
It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
While in this case the vodka was the genuine product, the contents of completely fake vodka previously seized in Lancashire may pose a risk to health.
County Coun. Janice Hanson, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for public protection, said: “We are committed to helping genuine Lancashire businesses and protecting our residents from cheap illegal tobacco and illicit alcohol.”
You can anonymously report information about sellers of illicit tobacco or alcohol via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. For consumer advice call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.