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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Customs find 7.2m fake cigarettes
Cigarettes
The cigarettes were imitations of well-known UK brands
Customs officers have seized 7.2m counterfeit cigarettes during a blitz on tobacco smuggling to the UK.

Handrolling tobacco weighing 1,387lb (629kg) was also recovered during the operation at Parcelforce's international hub in Coventry.

HM Revenue and Customs said it is thought the tobacco products were posted to the UK from China.

It said the smuggling operation would have avoided about 1.5m in duty payments to the government.

Graeme Anderson, head of division for detection in HM Revenue and Customs' central region, said the cigarettes were imitations of well-known brands sold in the UK.

"The proceeds from cigarette smuggling are often used to fund serious and organised crime such as drug smuggling.

Buying counterfeit tobacco products... provide a whole new set of risks to smokers
Graeme Anderson, HM Revenue and Custom

"The illicit cigarette trade breeds contempt for the law by encouraging otherwise honest people to trade with criminals."

He said Customs would pursue prosecutions for those involved in the smuggling.

"We are aware that most smokers buying cheap cigarettes are unlikely to realise they are buying counterfeit tobacco products which provide a whole new set of risks to smokers."

Tests on previous counterfeit hauls have revealed the cigarettes to contain up to 60% more tar, 80% more nicotine, and 133% more carbon monoxide.

Research has also shown that counterfeit cigarettes can contain three times the levels of arsenic, five times the level of cadmium and nearly six times the level of lead found in genuine brands.



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