Fake cigarettes worth around £7,000 have been seized in a series of Croydon Council trading standards raids on shops in the borough.
Trading standards officers and specialist handlers with sniffer dogs found around 700 packets of the illegal cigarettes at three properties in Thornton Heath and West Croydon on Monday 2 July.
The counterfeit packets, all of which were found at independent shops and are sold for around £10 each, included fake packaging from well-known cigarette brands including Marlboro, Dunhill, Rothmans and Mayfair.
Council trading standards officers are now investigating the shop owners. Anyone prosecuted and convicted of being involved in selling or supplying illegal tobacco can face penalties including up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Fake tobacco is banned because it often contains dangerous ingredients not usually found in cigarettes, including bleach and mouse droppings, duty tax has not been paid and every purchase encourages an illegal trade.
Customers can spot illegal cigarettes because they often do not contain health warnings about smoking or are written in foreign languages. Many of the packets seized in the latest Croydon haul were in packaging written in Russian, Polish and Turkish. Illegal tobacco is also often sold in unusual locations, such as pubs, private houses, ice cream vans or burger vans.
Croydon Council officers carry out frequent spot checks to see if businesses are selling illegal tobacco to underage customers, who are at greater risk of becoming regular smokers through fake sales.
“The sale of illegal cigarettes poses a major public health risk and damages our economy, so this seizure by our trading standards team protects both customers and law-abiding businesses in the borough.
“Getting involved in the sale or supply of fake cigarettes can land you in serious trouble, so always be careful about what you buy and who from.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities
If you suspect that tobacco you bought may be counterfeit, report it to Citizens’ Advice on 03454 040506.