Warning About Smuggled Cigarettes

1 April 2010, 12:36 | Updated: 1 April 2010, 12:54

There's a warning not to buy counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes at boot fares in Kent over Easter.

HM Revenue and Customs say while the price may seem attractive, these sales are unlicensed and unregulated.

They are also concerned that the people selling the cigarettes won't check the age of people buying them, so they could get into the hands of young children.

It's often very difficult to tell the difference between counterfeit cigarettes and the genuine thing, because the packaging is very similar.

Bob Gaiger, Spokesman for HMRC said: "With an estimated £2 billion in revenue being drained from the public purse each year by tobacco smugglers alone, the problem of excise fraud is a real one, which we are determined to crack.

"this is not an innocent or victimless crime but one that encourages otherwise honest people to trade with criminals. We have active and efficient teams of officers operating across the South East to disrupt this illicit trade which has a devastating impact on legitimate retailers having to compete against these black market traders. The gangs behind the firm of criminality reap huge profits from cigarette sales which are ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing and fraud."

He added: "We are keen to work closely with local people and communities in the fight against this type of crime. We would encourage anyone who knows of someone selling cheap or duty free cigarettes and tobacco at car boot sales and markets or from their house or place of work to contact the Customs hotline on 0800 59 5000."

Over the past year more than 550 million cigarettes have been stopped from being smuggled into the UK, many of them via the Port of Dover.