Agencies involved in the fight against illicit tobacco smugglers today raised concerns of a proliferation of internet sites offering illegal tobacco for sale at pocket money prices.
It comes after the LEP, which is campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of the illicit tobacco trade, exposed a Facebook page offering suspected illicit tobacco to students via an online buy sell swap site.
Adverts posted by at least two people, offered seven packets of Marlboro for just £35 - a price likely to mean the cigarettes have no duty paid or are counterfeit.
The Tobacco Retailers Association, which is among organisations backing the LEP’s Don’t Let Them Make A Packet campaign, said such activity is undercutting the county’s legitimate retailers and raised concerns about young people accessing products through Facebook.
Spokeswoman Debbie Corris said: “These sellers clearly don’t worry about the age of their customers. Legitimate retailers are having to go dark supposedly to stop young people taking up smoking.”
Victims of the underground economy include Lancashire’s corner shops which are struggling to compete as they lose the footfall from smokers who buy other items from their shops when they come in for legitimate products.
The low risk high gain profits from illicit tobacco help to fund other crimes dealers are often connected to, such as human trafficking, the sex trade, drugs and firearms and even terrorism.
Report suspected dealers to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.