Hundreds of packets of potentially illegal cigarettes were discovered in a raid on a Bognor Regis convenience store.
West Sussex County Council trading standards officers seized close to £3,800 worth of cigarettes and tobacco from the Bognor shop on September 24.
A similar raid took place in Worthing, though in releasing details the county council has not identified the two stores involved.
In Bognor Regis, premises were inspected and 24 packets of ‘foreign labelled and potentially counterfeit and unsafe cigarettes’ were found in the pockets of a male employee’s coat, a council statement said.
Sniffer dogs then discovered tobacco hidden inside a car parked at the premises. Officers forced entry after the owner failed to unlock the vehicle.
They found 362 packets of cigarettes and 29 pouches of tobacco, which were foreign labelled and potentially counterfeit, with a street value of almost £3,800.
The vehicle, which belonged to a suspect currently under investigation, was then seized.
Richard Sargeant, team manager for trading standards, said: “Cheap, illicit tobacco can be attractive 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.
“Unsafe cigarettes that do not self-extinguish are dangerous and have in the past led to house fires.
“We are grateful to consumers and local businesses who have supplied valuable information and we are committed to tackling this illegal trade.”
At a similar raid on a store in Worthing on the same day, a shopkeeper was caught after unknowingly selling a packet of foreign labelled cigarettes to an undercover trading standards officer.
Officers returned to the shop to find 37 packets of counterfeit cigarettes and 29 pouches of tobacco.
David Barling, the council’s cabinet member for residents services with responsibility for trading standards, warned: “Catching and prosecuting offenders sends out a clear, no nonsense message to others trying to sell cheap, illicit tobacco.”
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales should call 03454040506.
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