Trading Standards officers from Lancashire County Council have seized a large haul of illicit cigarettes and tobacco from a shop in Nelson this week.
The illicit products, which would be worth around £13,000 if sold as genuine, were found in a number of hiding places around the shop. These included the cellar, the bottom of the stairs and in stock rooms.
Two large postal sacks stuffed with tobacco were seized, although the shop is not a post office. They were found together with numerous cardboard produce boxes full of tobacco, some of which were hidden under a table of fruit and vegetables on the shop floor.
Because of previous seizures from this trader and a current ongoing prosecution against the shopkeepers, Trading Standards mounted this operation with the welcome assistance of Lancashire Police.
The shop had been the subject of intelligence from members of the public and from other enforcement agencies and has previously sold illicit tobacco to test purchasers sent in by Trading Standards.
This is the latest of a number of tobacco seizures and prosecutions by Lancashire Trading Standards in recent months.
More than 180,000 illicit cigarettes and over 1000kg illicit tobacco have been taken from Lancashire traders in 55 seizures in the last 12 months. During this period, the service has obtained 15 criminal convictions for the supply of illicit tobacco.
Dawn Robinson, principal officer for Lancashire County Council's Trading Standards service, said: "The number of cases we are dealing with demonstrates the value of the illegal trade in tobacco, with some unscrupulous retailers refusing to comply with the law on tobacco sales, despite previous enforcement action against them.
"Cheap illicit tobacco is readily available to young people and encourages them to smoke and become addicted.
"The sale and manufacture of illegal tobacco has a negative impact on legitimate local businesses, and on our communities and young people. We are determined to tackle this type of crime."
If you would like to report any businesses you suspect of supplying illicit tobacco, contact Lancashire Trading Standards team via the Citizen's Advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06.