SHOPPERS will be warned about the dangers of illegal tobacco and encouraged to report the issue when a campaign roadshow rolls into the town centre tomorrow.

Illegal tobacco is known to make it easier for children to start smoking because it is sold at pocket money prices, making them easy prey to a lethal habit that claims the life of one in two smokers. Illegal tobacco is also known to make communities more attractive to criminals.

Swindon Council Trading Standards and Public Health teams are working with Smokefree South West on a campaign launched this week to increase awareness about illegal tobacco among the public, urging fewer people to buy it and more people to report it.

Trained staff will be talking to shoppers by the water feature in Regent Street between 10am and 5pm to highlight the dangers.

New research shows that more than one in 10 (15.8 per cent) Swindon smokers use illegal tobacco. Yet the overwhelming majority of people surveyed (83 per cent) feel that illegal tobacco puts children at risk.

Illegal tobacco refers to goods that have been smuggled, counterfeited or manufactured specifically for the black market, such as Jin Ling, Raquel, Palace, Manchester and Richman.

Last week a joint operation saw Trading Standards and police officers target three shops locally believed to be selling illegal tobacco.

Although none was found in the premises, about 1,200 packets of illegal cigarettes were uncovered in a van parked on double yellow lines outside one of the shops. The packs were seized, which means some £5,000 worth of potential sales removed from the illegal market.

Coun Emma Faramarzi, cabinet member for housing and public safety, said: “Smoking is a serious public health issue and cheap illegal tobacco just makes it even harder to keep our children away from harm.”

Selling illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can contact Trading Standards by emailing or calling 01793 466155.

People can also report it anonymously online at www.stop- or call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.