MORE than 50,000 illegal cigarettes and almost 300 packets of hand-rolling tobacco have been seized by Trading Standards officers in Worcestershire.
Officers, accompanied by specialist detection dogs from Wagtail UK, seized the items from two retail premises in Evesham and Redditch.
They have a street value of over £20,000.
Tests of the counterfeit cigarettes in seizures by other local authorities have shown that some do not meet safety standards for self-extinguishing and have the potential to cause fires.
The availability of illegal cigarettes also poses risk to public health.
Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “The availability of cheap illicit cigarettes and tobacco in our communities makes it harder for smokers to quit and stay smoke free.
“These products are significantly cheaper than the legitimate product, removing the impact of the government’s taxation pressures aimed at persuading people to quit. It also reduces the takings of local honest businesses and cuts the income to the Treasury which funds our public services.
“The availability of cheap products also makes it much easier for young people to get hold of tobacco, creating a risk to their long term health.”
No arrests were made but the businesses and individuals involved are subject to an on-going criminal investigation.
Councillor Hodgson added: “Our Trading Standards team will continue to work hard to remove illegal products and where necessary we will prosecute businesses and individuals that ignore the law.”
If you are concerned that a Worcestershire retailer is selling illicit or counterfeit tobacco, report it at www.worcestershirets.gov.uk or call 03454-040506.