A NEW dedicated hotline has been launched in Halton to combat counterfeit goods.

Residents are urged to call 0151 511 8787 to report the sale of counterfeit or illicit tobacco or alcohol.

It can also be used give information about underage selling of tobacco or alcohol to children.

Halton Cllr Dave Cargill, board member for Trading Standards, said: “Counterfeit and illicit tobacco and alcohol cause untold suffering to Halton residents.

"Sellers of these products are only interested in making easy money for themselves and they don’t care about the risks they are putting others at.

“Illicit tobacco is considerably cheaper than legitimate tobacco making it more affordable for young people to start smoking and more difficult for existing smokers to quit.”

Counterfeit alcohol usually contains industrial grade alcohol containing high levels of methanol or i-propanol - which can lead to blindness and induced coma.

Recent tests indicate many of the illicit cigarettes imported into the country pose a risk of causing fires because they fail the standard fire safety test for genuine cigarettes.

A Trading Standards survey in 2015 discovered that 31 per cent of 14-17 year olds in Halton who smoke reported they had bought cigarettes with health warnings in different languages and were illicit cigarettes.

Trading Standards officers are determined to stamp out the sale of these counterfeit and illicit goods and take a zero tolerance approach to those involved in the criminality.

Cllr Cargill added: "I would urge Halton residents and traders to use the new hotline so that we can work together to take the appropriate enforcement action against these people.”

The hotline 0151 511 8787 is a reporting voicemail and any information provided can be left anonymously.

However, callers are urged to provide enough information to identify those involved and if you want feedback remember to include your contact details.