Council calls for information about illegal tobacco following seizure

Sniffer dogs were used to detect the tobacco during separate raids of a business in Oxford and another in Banbury earlier this month.

The plea for information comes during Stoptober, a month-long national campaign aimed at encouraging smokers to kick the habit. The scheme is supported by the county council's Public Health team.

Investigations into the most recent raids are on-going, as are those related to seizures of a total of 5,300 potentially illicit cigarettes from five Cowley businesses last month as part of Operation Henry, a nine-region crackdown on the supply of tobacco suspected to be illegal.

Unfair competition

Jody Kerman, from Oxfordshire Trading Standards, said: "We are always keen to hear from people with intelligence about the sale or storage of potentially illegal tobacco - products such as these is are known to bring low-level and organised crime into communities.

"It also creates unfair competition between local businesses by selling tobacco more cheaply than the going market rate, which could put local jobs and business at risk."

Stop smoking support is available

Kate Eveleigh, from the county council's Public Health Team, added: "There is evidence that the availability of cheap tobacco could be the last barrier stopping people from taking the important decision to stop smoking or access support services.

"Children could also access cheap tobacco at pocket money prices - some illegal tobacco could be even more hazardous to people's health than normal tobacco."

Councillor Rodney Rose, the Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who has Cabinet responsibility for Trading Standards, added: "It is encouraging to see that our Trading Standards team is taking steps to deal with sellers of potentially illicit tobacco. Those who knowingly trade illegal cigarettes damage local communities as they put jobs and law-abiding businesses at risk by selling cheap products."

Anybody with information about the sale or storage of suspected illegal tobacco can call Trading Standards on via 03454 040506 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

People wanting advice about how to stop smoking can call the Oxfordshire Smoking Advice Service Helpline or 0845 40 80 300 or 01865 787165.