DUDLEY Council’s trading standards team took more than 150,000 illegal cigarettes and 1,000kg of tobacco off the borough’s streets last year.

The items were seized from seven shops between April 2017 and March 2018 with the assistance of specialist tobacco sniffer dogs.

So far, two prosecutions have concluded with several more pending. In addition, some shops have had their alcohol licences suspended or revoked for dealing with illegal tobacco products.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, Dudley's cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Far from being a victimless crime, illegal tobacco trade creates a cheap source for children and young people and although people may think they are getting a ‘good deal’ they are actually supporting organised criminal gangs.

"Whilst all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market, and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes, undermines government health policies aimed at reducing the cost to the NHS of treating diseases caused by smoking.

"The loss to the taxpayer means less money being spent on local communities, schools and the NHS and I would urge any residents who have concerns to get in touch with our excellent trading standards team."

Illegal tobacco products are usually very cheap - often less than half the price of legitimate packets - and often have foreign writing on them.

Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other types of illicit goods should report it to Trading Standards by calling 0300 303 2636.