Who you gonna call if you see ‘dodgy fags’ or counterfeit booze? Unfortunately Ghostbusters will not be able to help you with this one, but Halton Borough Council Trading Standards can!

This week sees the launch of a new dedicated hotline, 0151 511 8787, for residents to call with information relating to the sale of counterfeit or illicit tobacco or alcohol.

It can also be used to report underage selling of tobacco or alcohol to children.

Counterfeit alcohol isn’t simply a cheap alternative, it usually contains industrial grade alcohol (the type used in car screen wash) containing high levels of methanol or i-propanol – which can lead to blindness and induced coma.

While counterfeit and illicit cigarettes carry all the negative health implications of genuine products they also pose an aggravated risk of household fires.

Recent tests indicate many of the illicit cigarettes imported into the country fail the standard fire safety test for genuine cigarettes – the reduced ignition propensity test with the ironic acronym RIP.

Cigarettes have to pass the ‘RIP’ test to be legally sold in the UK. They have been designed to self-extinguish when left unpuffed and research indicates they have reduced cigarette induced house fires in excess of 30%*.

Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Trading Standards, Cllr Dave Cargill, said: “Counterfeit and illicit tobacco and alcohol cause untold suffering to Halton residents across the Borough.

“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.”

In 2015 31 per cent of 14-17 year olds in Halton who smoke (Trading Standards North West survey) reported they had bought cigarettes with health warnings in different languages i.e. illicit cigarettes.

Officers from our Trading Standards Service 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 continued: “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.”

If you have any information involving the sale of counterfeit or illicit cigarettes or alcohol then please telephone the Trading Standards Reporting Hotline for Alcohol and Tobacco on 0151 511 8787.

This is a reporting voicemail 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.

All other trading standards matters can be reported in the usual manner by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.