ILLEGAL cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol have been seized in a series of raids at homes across Widnes and Warrington.

Around 40,000 cigarettes, 30kg of hand rolling tobacco and 76 litres of vodka, believed to be counterfeit, have been sent for analysis.

Warrington and Halton Trading Standards joined forces with Cheshire Police to crack down on illegal cut price goods in the run-up to Christmas.

Cllr Stef Nelson, board member for consumer protection, said: "Officers will continue to act robustly where they receive intelligence about counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes.

“Illegally imported cigarettes and alcohol cost the UK taxpayer more than £3 billion every year, plus those trading in illegal goods from their homes are frequently also claiming benefits.

"This isn’t just about lost revenue though, officers are now having the products tested to confirm they are counterfeit and if they could have been harmful."

Peter Astley, head of public protection service, said: "We all know that cigarettes and alcohol can be dangerous in their own right and we generally know what is contained within legitimate branded products, however these seizures are of products where probably no-one truly knows the hidden danger of what they contain."

Andrea Crossfield, director of Tobacco Free Futures, said: "We, along with partners such as HM Revenue and Customs and local authorities, including Halton Council, have been working successfully to cut the supply of and demand for cheap illegal tobacco.

“ Its low price and easy availability encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders. This enforcement action is therefore welcomed."

The 'Keep it out' campaign is a joint initiative backed by Tobacco Free Futures with Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs and other partner agencies such as UK Border Agency and Police.

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal cigarettes or tobacco can report it anonymously by calling either Trading Standards on 01925 442 466 or report tobacco or alcohol to crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.