Car boot warning over cigarettes

Visitors to car boot sales across the region are being warned to be on the look out for traders selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.

Visitors to car boot sales across the region are being warned to be on the look out for traders selling counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.

A public awareness campaign has been launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as the car boot season gets under way in earnest.

They have stressed that while punters may think they are getting their hands on a bargain, they are actually helping to fund underworld crime, while an estimated £3bn in revenue is drained every year from the public purse by smugglers.

Jim Jarvie, of the HMRC, said: “We are determined to eradicate this form of criminality, which has a devastating effect on all our communities.

“This is not an innocent or victimless form of crime, but one that encourages otherwise honest people to trade with criminals. The gangs behind this form of criminality reap huge profits from cigarette sales, which are ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing and fraud.”

Officials admit that expertly crafted packaging can make it almost impossible to spot fakes, but people should look out for a number of clues, including:

Most Read

t Tobacco being sold in unusual places, such as car boot sales;

t Unauthorised sellers offering cheap tobacco in pubs, clubs and workplaces;

t Legitimate retailers selling tobacco products at remarkably cheap prices;

t Products without health warnings, or with warnings in a foreign language.

While the HMRC is keen to gather information from the public, it has warned people not to get involved with gangs because they can be dangerous and also not to buy suspect goods as proof.

Mr Jarvie added: “We are keen to work closely with local people and communities in the fight against crime.”

t Anyone with information about counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes can call the HMRC's confidential hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email customs.confidential@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk