Courts are being urged to do everything within their power to combat the scourge of illegal cigarettes.

The call came after magistrates in Somerset refused to revoke the alcohol licence of a retailer found guilty of selling illicit tobacco.

Mehmet Turan Yilderim, who runs the International Food Centre in Bridgwater, was found with £3,471 of illegal stock stashed in a locked room in his shop. Trading standards asked magistrates to revoke his personal licence to sell alcohol, but it was refused.

It is disappointing that the magistrates did not follow all the recommendations of trading standards on this occasion

Jeremy Blackburn, JTI

Taking into account his “good character” and because of his financial situation, he was ordered to carry out just 60 hours of unpaid work in the community and pay £200 costs with a £60 victim surcharge.

The lenient sentence contrasted with illicit trader Ary Mohamed, featured in the last issue of Retail Express, who was banned from selling tobacco in his Bolton store for six months.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of communications at JTI said: “We would encourage HMRC and trading standards to use all of the powers available to them to tackle the trade in illegal tobacco when it appears in retail stores. It is disappointing that the magistrates did not follow all the recommendations of trading standards on this occasion.”

Somerset County Council deputy leader councillor David Hall said: “We will not tolerate illegal sales of tobacco and will continue to take firm action to stop this type of activity by using our enforcement powers against those we catch.”