THOUSANDS of counterfeit and non-duty-paid cigarettes were recovered after three Worcester stores were raided.

Three people were arrested following the joint initiative between Worcestershire Regulatory Services and Worcester Safer Neighbourhood Teams on Tuesday, February 25.

West Mercia Police and Trading Standards Officers swooped on the premises with a sniffer dog after receiving information that a number of stores were selling suspected counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes.

PC Alex Denny, from Worcester Cathedral's Safer Neighbourhood Team, said the sale of counterfeit cigarettes was a risk to the health of the public and to unsuspecting traders.

He said: "The sale of counterfeit cigarettes poses a risk to the health of people who consume these and this is a clear concern to all agencies involved.

"Furthermore the sale of cigarettes which have circumvented the customs procedure puts other law abiding local traders at an unfair risk of loss.

"We will continue to disrupt these illegal trading practices where there is a risk to the public and local community."

Worcestershire Regulatory Service joint committee chairman councillor Lucy Hodgson said: "By acting on this intelligence we are potentially saving people's lives.

"Hopefully this will remind people who engage in such activities that both Worcestershire Regulatory Services and West Mercia Police are working together on this issue for the benefit of our communities."