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24 April 2011, 06:00
HMRC seized around 1.7 billion cigarettes and 406 tonnes of hand rolling tobacco during 2009/10.
Here are 5 top tips on how to spot suspect alcohol and cigarettes....
Price – the duty and vat (20%) on a 70cl Bottle of 37.5% vodka is £7.50 and for a 70cl Bottle of 40% whisky is £7.99. If you paid less than this the spirits are suspect.
Labelling – Bottles of spirits should be lot coded so they can be traced in the event of a recall. Lot codes can be ink-jet printed onto a label or the bottle, or the code may be laser etched into the glass. Counterfeit spirits are often not lot coded.
White bits - Bottles of vodka shouldn’t have any white particles in the spirit or white sediment in the spirit, or white blooming of the glass. These effects are due to the dilution of the ‘spirit’ with regular tap water.
Cap - The screw cap and its retaining ring shouldn’t both turn when trying to open the bottle. This may indicate the cap has been manually fitted rather than closed by machine and the spirit may be suspect.
Taste and smell - If you buy a particular spirit on a regular basis and it either tastes or smells different then stop drinking it and report it as suspect.
Price - Be wary of individuals or legitimate retailers selling tobacco and alcohol products at remarkably cheap prices.
Unusual brands - Suspect goods are often given invented names. If a search of the internet fails to bring up either details of the manufacturer or reasonable list of wholesalers then the product may be suspect.
Labelling - Tobacco products without health warnings or with warnings not in English may have been smuggled in to the UK.
Markings - Be wary of tobacco products without the duty paid pack mark.
Language - Watch out for UK brands of tobacco with tax labels not in English.
If you know of anyone selling cheap or duty free cigarettes and tobacco contact the customs hotline on 0800 595000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org