Dangers of fake cigarettes

WIGAN smokers were today being warned about the added dangers of couterfeit tobacco after a haul was confiscated during a raid on a local pound shop.

After receiving a number of tip-offs from the public, Wigan Council’s Trading Standards officers organised the raid which led to the seizure of 1,300 cigarettes and 1.2kg of hand rolled tobacco from an unnamed budget store in Leigh town centre.

The illegal tobacco, which was being sold under the counter to customers, was found in a hideaway in the back of the shop.

Initial tests have shown it to be counterfeit and the products are now being sent for further examination.

Coun Kevin Anderson, cabinet champion for communities and the environment, said: “The sale of counterfeit goods is a serious criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

“The urge to buy things ‘under the counter’ can prove irresistible, particularly during a credit crunch.

“But people need to be made aware of the potential risks they may be taking. Counterfeit tobacco products can be unsafe and potentially even more harmful than the genuine item.

“All tobacco is unhealthy but counterfeit tobacco is made by organised criminal gangs without any regard to quality or safety standards.

“Please don’t turn a blind eye to this issue. It isn’t a victimless crime.

“Children and under-age adults could be getting hold of these products and potentially causing untold long term damage to their health.

“We are grateful to those people who came forward with information because without their help, ridding our neighbourhoods of these illicit and dangerous goods would be all the more difficult.”

In the last 12 months 25,000 cigarettes and 12 kilos of cheap illegal tobacco has been seized from shops and residential houses in the Wigan and Leigh area.

Earlier this year 67-year-old Ian Fitton, of Maple Crescent in Leigh, pleaded guilty to fraudulently evading paying any duty on a large stash of cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco before Wigan Magistrates’ Court.

Prosecutors told how officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and trading standards searched his house and discovered a large stash of counterfeit cigarettes - many of which were not even known to be available on the European market - and hand-rolling tobacco.