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Fake fags warning for town smokers

YOYO the spaniel showed his fake fag detecting skills in Bognor Regis town centre.

 

He has found more than £4m of illegal tobacco in the four years he has been working for the West Sussex trading standards department.

 

His handler of the past five years, Stuart Phillips, brought him to the town on Tuesday where he quickly used his four-legged skills to detect some illict tobacco.

 

The day-long drop-in event took place in the London Road precinct to highlight the dangers of the unauthorised product.

 

Fake cigarettes often do not self-extinguish, which means they present a greater risk of causing fires.

 

The town was chosen for the event because it is one of the worst areas in the county for illegal tobacco to be found. Among the most commonly copied tobaccos is Gold NZ.

 

Kyran O’Neill, one of the trading standards officers at the event, said: “We are educating the people of Bognor Regis as it’s a problem area for this.

 

“One aspect of education is health. It can be dangerous to smoke these and make people ill. The cigarettes can contain anything, including rat poison. Whatever is in the factory could be found in the cigarettes.

 

“We are joined here today by the fire fighters as cigarettes are known to self- extinguish but illegally made tobacco products do not and therefore pose a fire risk.

 

“These products also fund organised crime, including human trafficking. A shop will sell illegal tobacco but there are layers of a network of crime behind it. The damage to local businesses and the government can be catastrophic, with undercutting of prices and a loss of tax for the government.

 

“We are also here to get intelligence from people in the local area. If we can gather that it can help to prosecute.”

 

Since last April, West Sussex trading standards has seized 1,186 packets of cigarettes and 402 tobacco pouches valued around £20,860.

 

Another trading standards officer, Richard Sargent, said: “Businesses caught selling illicit tobacco can lose their alcohol licence and traders can even go to jail.

 

“We would always advise that a person buys from a legitimate business and contact us if they have any reservations.”

 

Cllr Debbie Kennard, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, said fake cigarettes posed a lot of dangers.

 

“Our trading standards officers have done some excellent work when it comes to putting a stop to the sale of illegal tobacco,” she added.

 

Anyone with information about illegal goods can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or report details online at: westsussex.gov.uk/TSreport

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