Cereal boxes and ice cream vans are some of the more unusual places where illegal cigarettes have been discovered by West Sussex Trading Standards.
The county council has released information about the strangest hiding places for tobacco ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is on Sunday May 31 and is organised by the World Health Organisation.
Each year has a specific theme, with this year’s being illicit tobacco.
In the past year illegal tobacco has been found in an ice cream van, a car repair garage, in cereal boxes, behind a sliding panel in a genuine cigarette gantry, and in front of a boarded up window hidden behind a bathroom cupboard.
The council’s clampdown on illegal cigarettes over the last year has resulted in three prosecutions resulting in fines and a suspended jail sentence. Five warning letters have been issued and three cautions given.
David Barling, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for residents services with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “Illegal tobacco sellers are constantly coming up with new and more ingenious hiding places but we are sending a clear message that work is continuing to disrupt the supply of illicit tobacco in West Sussex.
“Cheap, illegal tobacco is more readily available to those on low incomes, including young people, who are amongst the priority groups we are particularly keen to support to not start, or to give up smoking.”
Tests on illegal cigarettes have revealed some contained heavy metals, tea leaves and rat droppings.
Counterfeit cigarettes often do not self-extinguish and can cause house fires.
Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade helps fund organised crime and takes money away from taxes which support public services initiatives.
Tips for spotting illegal cigarettes include:
• foreign health warnings on the packet
• no picture health warnings
• unusual taste and smell
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales can report it online by contacting Trading Standards at www.westsussex.gov.uk/TSreport.
To find out more about the West Sussex Stop Smoking Service call the helpline on 0300 100 1823.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage.
2 Like our Facebook page.
3 Follow us on Twitter.
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.