A BLACKBURN newsagent has criticised legal action that could allow cross-border shoppers to flood the North West with cut price tobacco.

Suleman Khonat, who is also a spokesman for Retailers Against Smuggling - a campaign by the Tobacco Alliance - said it was forcing shopkeepers out of business.

His comments come after Blackburn coach firm Dreamline Travel had a coach seized by customs officials after passengers returning from France were found to have the equivalent of 700,000 cigarettes with them.

Yesterday the EU announced it would take the UK government to court for being too tough on cross-border shoppers or so-called 'booze cruisers'.

But Mr Khonat, owner of Khonat News in Johnson Street and a Labour councillor, said the government should not back down.

"People are bringing back far more cigarettes than could possibly be for human consumption and the EU wants to make it so people can make as many trips as they want," he said.

"On average retailers are losing around £50,000 a year because of trade in cheap tobacco and alcohol. Corner shops that have been in families for generations face closure because they are having to cut back on staff."

Meanwhile, director of Dreamline Travel, Paul Critchley, has warned other operators to beware of people abusing the system after he was told he must pay £21,000 to get his coach back.

Mr Critchley, 43, has contacted solicitors about taking UK customs to court for unlawful seizure of the £140,000 coach.

He said: "Other coach operators need to be aware that this can happen. Drivers will be penalised even though it is not their fault.

"I would urge all operators to be very careful."

And a passenger on the coach, who does not want to be named, has fully vindicated the coach driver. She said: "I don't see how the driver can be blamed, and we all feel so sorry for the coach company."

The passenger said the trip was organised by a group of friends, who regularly attend Mecca bingo in Middleton, Greater Manchester.

A group of 30, mainly women, were originally booked on the coach but they opened it up to others in order to make the trip cheaper.