THOUSANDS of contraband cigarettes and tobacco products were discovered after a crackdown in Wallasey and Birkenhead following tip-offs from the public.

The illegal items were seized during inspection visits to “unscrupulous traders” by Wirral Trading Standards, the North West Illicit Tobacco Team and police.

Trading Standards manager Derek Payet said: “Counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco products cannot be legally sold in the UK.

“Those involved in dealing in illegal tobacco may be encouraging people, including children, to smoke by providing a cheap source.

“Wirral Council is determined to identify and bring to justice those who are involved in this trade. Offenders need to know that they will face consequences if they choose to deal in illegal tobacco.”

Councillor Bernie Mooney, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, added: “It is great to be involved in this kind of activity alongside partner organisations - and what is even better is that we have been able to act on information given to us by concerned local people.

“This operation has proved that your information can make a difference.”

Andrea Crossfield, director of Tobacco Free Futures, said: “We have been working successfully to cut the supply of and demand for cheap illegal tobacco.

”It's low price and easy availability encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders. This enforcement action is therefore welcomed.”

Anyone with information regarding the sale of illegal tobacco can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, Citizens Advice on 08454 04 05 06 or Trading Standards on 01925 442 466.