More than 21,000 illegal cigarettes found in raids across town

Illegal cigarettes previously seized in a raid. Picture: Suffolk County Council

Illegal cigarettes previously seized in a raid. Picture: Suffolk County Council - Credit: Archant

Thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized by police following a clamp down of the bootleg product in a coastal town.

More than 21,000 cigarettes and 10.9kg of rolling tobacco have been removed from various stores in Lowestoft.

The raids involved officers from trading standards and Suffolk Police.

The 21,880 cigarettes and tobacco failed a visual inspection as genuine products.

Mary Strang, principal Trading Standards officer, said: "We have disrupted the supply of such products in the area, but we know we must continue to clamp down. Illegal tobacco sales are often the tip of the iceberg to funding more serious, organised crime.

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"In our line of work, if the price of something looks too good to be true, there's usually a reason why. If you buy a packet of these illegal cigarettes, you have no way of knowing what you are smoking or the damage you are doing to yourself and others - potentially more so than regular cigarettes."

According to Trading Standards, illegal cigarettes are cheaper and sold in coloured packaging. These cigarettes can pose as a fire risk as they don't self-extinguish.

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When genuine cigarettes are left for a period of time, they are designed to self-extinguish, reducing the risk of fires starting if left unattended. This design became European law in 2011, but many illegal cigarettes do not self-extinguish, increasing the risk of accidental fires.

Councillor Richard Rout, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: "In the last 12 months our Trading Standards team has led four successful prosecutions against those who have sold illegal tobacco.

"Sentences passed by the judge have seen total fines running into tens of thousands of pounds, alongside suspended prison sentences.

"It is an activity we simply will not tolerate, it has a negative impact on public health and honest businesses.

"If you buy or sell illegal tobacco, it is stealing from the taxpayer - it's money that could be spent on important public services like schools and hospitals.

"We will continue to pursue traders of illegal tobacco."

Investigations into the seizures will continue and shop owners will face a formal interview.

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