A shop in Widnes has been accused of selling cigarettes to underage volunteers, as revealed in a Trading Standards sting.

It comes just a couple of weeks than after more than 16,000 counterfeit cigarettes were seized in Operation Fastnet.

Following a tip off from a member of the public, Halton Trading Standards focussed its attention on a shop in Widnes.

Information had been received that the shop was selling counterfeit cigarettes to children.

A 16-year-old volunteer was used in a test purchasing exercise. The child was not asked their age nor were they asked for ID but they were sold a pack of 20 Lambert & Butler.

The cigarettes were counterfeit.

Following the sale the shop was searched and 1,830 counterfeit cigarettes and approximately 2kg of counterfeit hand-rolling tobacco was seized along with a top of the range mobile phone.

The items were hidden in a purpose built concealed pneumatic unit in the ceiling. The retail value for items seized was about £2,000.

As a result of what was found on the business premises the Police searched a residential address in Widnes and a further 3kg of counterfeit hand rolling tobacco (retail value of around £1200) was seized along with a mobile phone.

Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Trading Standards, Cllr Dave Cargill. said: “We should all be concerned for the health of our young people. The availability of cheap counterfeit cigarettes can make it more affordable for young people to take up or to continue smoking.

“Trading Standards continue to hunt down those involved in selling counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco to children and this case indicates the lengths the criminals will go to hide their criminality.”

“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 a higher propensity to cause a house fire resulting in fatalities.”

“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 phone call.”

If you have any information relating to the sale of illicit cigarettes, tobacco or alcohol then you can report it anonymously on the Halton Trading Standards Hotline for Alcohol and Tobacco on 0151 511 8787.

This is a reporting voicemail facility only and any information provided can be left anonymously, however, please provide enough information to identify those involved and if you want feedback, your contact details too.

Remember all other trading standards matters can be reported in the usual manner via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506