‘Bigger fines needed on fake fags’

The LGA is calling for courts to impose bigger fines for selling illegal cigarettes that cost the UK economy more than £2 billion a year in unpaid duty.

Fake or counterfeit cigarettes are made to look like popular UK brands but typically have foreign health warnings and no picture health warnings. Non-duty paid, or bootlegged cigarettes, are UK brands usually brought into the country from abroad with foreign health warnings on the packaging and sold illegally.

In recent prosecutions, illegal stashes of cigarettes have been found concealed in sophisticated hiding places in the walls and floors of shops and secret panels in cupboards. Trading standards officers have previously found illegal hauls in toilet cisterns, boxes of sweets, behind extractor fans and in ceiling lights.

Many fake cigarettes contain even higher levels of toxic ingredients, such as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, than genuine brand-name cigarettes – which are still harmful to health.

Fake cigarettes also pose a greater fire risk as they do not include designs that ensure a lit cigarette will self-extinguish if not actively smoked. This reduces the chances of them starting a fire if they are left burning in an ashtray, are dropped, or if the smoker falls asleep.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “The sale of cheap, illegal tobacco by rogue traders in shops, private homes and through social media is funding organised criminal gangs and damaging legitimate traders, as well as making it easier for young people to get hooked on smoking, which undermines councils’ efforts to help people quit.

“Bigger fines need to be imposed by the courts to deter the sale of illegal tobacco to help councils’ enforcement work against rogue traders, reduce crime in our communities and protect the health of children and young people.”

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