The Local Government Association has said efforts to reduce smoking and improve health were being hampered by the illicit tobacco trade – which costs the UK economy about £3 billion a year in unpaid duty.
Coun Joanna Spicer, from the LGA, said: “Counterfeit tobacco being sold cheaply through the black market by rogue traders is hampering council efforts to reduce smoking.
“This illicit trade is also funding organised criminal gangs, damaging the livelihoods of honest businesses and costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.
“People buying cheap cigarettes might think they are getting a great deal, but the truth is that they are not.
“If they knew what they might contain, they might think twice about buying them.
“Council prosecutions should serve as a strong warning to any shopkeeper thinking of stocking their shelves with illegal tobacco and not thinking twice about selling them cheaply to children and others.”
Adrian Farley, from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, said: “Low-cost tobacco products can often seem very attractive.
“The truth is these goods have been smuggled, often by organised crime gangs, and sales are unlicensed and unregulated.”