A TAKEAWAY boss has been penalised for selling under-the-counter tobacco at his chicken shop.

Trading standards officials swooped on Dixie Chick N Hut, in Accrington in January and February last year, after two test purchase stings, Blackburn magistrates heard.

An undercover volunteer went in around 11.30am on January 31 and asked for hand-rolling tobacco, the court heard, but was questioned closely by Jahangir Hussain about how he heard about about him.

Nick McNamara, prosecuting on behalf of Lancashire Trading Standards, said the volunteer was then sold a pack of Amber Leaf tobacco for £6, around half the expected high street price.

Hussain advised the volunteer in future that he should only come "first thing" or after 10pm, "in case someone was watching", the court heard.

Later checks would establish that the pouch was counterfeit goods, the court heard.

Mr McNamara told the court a second volunteer went into the shop on February 5 and again asked for tobacco. He handed over £13,50, covering the cost of the pack and food he was buying.

Hussain was seen to retrieve the pouch from a nearby food warmer before handing it over, he added.

While the pack was discovered to be genuine, it was in the kind of plain wrapping which was outlawed in May 2017, said Mr McNamara.

Hussain, 51, of Tremellen Street, Accrington, pleaded guilty to one trademarks offence and one safety regulations charge.

He was fined £200 and ordered to pay £749 court costs with a £30 victim surcharge by magistrates.

Mr McNamara added: "The sale of cheap illicit tobacco makes the habit more affordable and undermines all price-related efforts to reduce smoking.

"In addition it risks the livelihood of honest retailers in the area, who find it impossible to compete against their cut-price counterparts. Then there is the cost to the Exchequer in terms of lost duty and VAT.

The sale like that in the second charge of old-style, non-plain packs has been prohibited since May 2017 following concerns that branding makes smoking more attractive.

Damian Pickup, defending, said his client accepted he had "got involved in something he shouldn't have done" and "made a silly mistake".