Sara Hawthorn 26 August 2014

Councils seize toxic cigarettes in illegal trade crack down

Local authorities have seized millions of black market cigarettes containing high-levels of cancer causing chemicals as part of a crack down on illegal trade.

Cigarettes examined by trading standards officers were even found containing dead flies, asbestos and human excrement.

Councils in Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and London have all made efforts to tackle the problem, which the Local Government Association (LGA) believes costs the economy around £3bn a year in unpaid duty.

People are being warned that the fake cigarettes contain much higher levels of tar, nicotine and lead, as well as being a much higher fire risk due to the fact they don’t self-extinguish if left unsmoked.

Cllr Joanna Spicer, vice chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: ‘Counterfeit tobacco being sold cheaply through the black market by rogue traders is hampering council efforts to reduce smoking.

‘This illicit trade is also funding organised criminal gangs, damaging the livelihoods of honest businesses and costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.

‘Council prosecutions should serve as a strong warning to any shopkeeper thinking of stocking their shelves with illegal tobacco and not thinking twice about selling them cheaply to children and others.’

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