ALMOST 15,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized after a raid by trading standards chiefs in Blackpool.
The haul is the latest in a crackdown on counterfeit cigarettes which often contain excessive levels of toxic chemicals after The Gazette revealed deadly fags were on sale in the resort.
A total of 9,400 counterfeit Embassy Regal cigarettes were seized along with 4,600 SK branded cigarettes which are cheap whites and not for sale in the UK, from a lone trader selling goods from a hire vehicle.
Trading standards officers teamed up with police in response to a complaint the trader was illegally selling goods at Flagstaff Gardens on the Promenade in South Shore.
Surveillance was set up ahead of the raid which also saw sunglasses, balloons, lighters and other novelty items seized along with £1,015 in cash.
Now residents are being warned not to buy cheap fake cigarettes which, as well as containing dangerous chemicals, can contain as much as 30 times the lead levels of genuine tobacco.
Coun Gary Coleman, cabinet member for regeneration and urban development at Blackpool Council, said: “From a health point of view all cigarettes are dangerous, but the counterfeit ones are potentially lethal in that they have a cocktail of ingredients such as lead and cadmium.
“Unsuspecting members of the public are totally unaware of the potential dangers.
“We want members of the public to know if they suspect illegal activity, they can report it and we will investigate. Anyone who is offered cheap cigarettes should be wondering why. The advice is if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”
Health officials have added their voice to the warnings.
Jane Roberts, head of tobacco control at NHS Blackpool said; “Counterfeit tobacco, like legal tobacco, is a lethal product but the public may be unaware of just how life-threatening the high levels of toxic chemicals can be.
“Recent analysis of some counterfeit tobacco used in Blackpool has given rise to serious concern due to significantly high levels of lead and cadmium. Over exposure to cadmium can cause irreversible damage to the liver, kidneys and brain.
“Children are attracted to the low price of counterfeit tobacco and the earlier they become regular smokers the greater the risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease.”
Earlier this month a raid at an address in Dinmore Avenue, Grange Park, netted 3,000 illegal cigarettes.