TRADING standards and police officers have seized more than 14,000 counterfeit cigarettes from a retailer in Widnes.

Acting on complaints from Halton residents, Halton Trading Standards joined forces with Widnes Local Policing Unit to target a prolific seller of counterfeit and illicit tobacco.

Along with the cigarettes, 3kg of hand rolling tobacco was seized from a retailer, totalling a combined value of more than £8,000.

The possession or sale of counterfeit goods are offences under the Trades Mark Act 1994, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

A spokesperson from Halton Trading Standards said: "The case is the subject of an ongoing investigation and at this stage there is minimal information we can divulge.

"Suffice to say, the targeted operation was a result of the excellent partnership work between Trading Standards and police officers from Widnes Local Policing Unit.

"It highlights how agencies with common goals can work together to achieve results.

"In this case to remove a significant amount of counterfeit and illicit tobacco from the market place, whilst disrupting the illegal gains obtained by criminals."

Halton Borough Council's executive board member for Trading Standards, cllr Dave Cargill, said: "We are keen for Halton residents to understand the serious safety implications involved when buying cheap counterfeit cigarettes.

"Genuine cigarettes are designed to self-extinguish when left ‘unpuffed’, generally referred to as reduced ignition propensity cigarettes.

"Whereas counterfeit cigarettes, and even some cheap imports, will continue to burn with an increased risk of causing a fire, resulting in fatalities.

"Essentially if cigarettes or tobacco are not sold in the standardised green packaging, then the likelihood is they are counterfeit and residents should be wary.

"Although, counterfeiters have started to copy the plain packaging now too.

"Even during these difficult times we still have a duty to protect the health of the residents of Halton and so it is important that Trading Standards Officers actively pursue those involved in the sale of counterfeit and illicit cigarettes and tobacco.

"Many of those involved in the sale of counterfeit/illicit cigarettes will quite happily sell to children.

"Therefore, I would urge residents to speak up if they know or suspect someone is involved in selling counterfeit goods.

"All it takes is a brief anonymous telephone call to the Halton Trading Standards Hotline for Alcohol and Tobacco on 0151 511 8787."