The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed calls from the Local Government Association (LGA) to impose tougher sanctions on those caught selling illicit tobacco.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, has called for bigger fines to be imposed on those who sell illicit tobacco products, and warned that cheap, illegal tobacco is especially dangerous not just due to the toxins that could be present, but that they don’t extinguish themselves – presenting a significant fire risk.

In submissions to the Government, ACS has consistently called for tougher sanctions to be imposed on those selling illicit goods, and has recommended that offenders lose their alcohol licence as part of a zero tolerance approach.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Trading standards officers need more powers to stamp out the sale of illicit tobacco. If a small shop is found to be persistently selling non-duty paid cigarettes they should be stopped from trading and feel the full force of the law.”

According to HM Revenue and Customs, the tobacco tax gap driven by the illicit market in cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco was estimated to be £2.5bn in 2016-17. Of this, £1.9bn was lost in tobacco duties and a further £0.5bn in VAT.