SPOT checks on shops in the Eastbourne area led Trading Standards officers to uncover their biggest haul of illegal tobacco this year.

Cigarettes and rolling tobacco worth around £28,000 were found hidden in drawers in a flat in central Eastbourne.

The discovery, which included 18,500 illegal cigarettes and more than 19kgs of illegal hand-rolling tobacco, was made while inspections were being carried out by East Sussex Trading Standards officers, Sussex Police and other agencies on Thursday, March 31.

Cllr Rupert Simmons, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for economy said: “This result shows our commitment to ridding the county of illegal tobacco which brings organised crime into our communities, undermines efforts to discourage smoking and encourages tobacco use among young people due to cheaper prices.”

Richard Strawson, East Sussex Trading Standards manager, added: “As well as seizing tobacco products with a retail value of £28,000, we have also gathered intelligence which will help us and other agencies target further work to tackle the criminality.

“I hope that this significant discovery sends out a warning to anyone else involved in the sale of illegal tobacco that it is only a matter of time before we catch up with you.”

Further enquiries into the illegal tobacco haul will be carried out before considering criminal charges.

Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health in East Sussex said: “Public Health will continue to support the excellent work of our local enforcement agencies. This result helps protect local children from becoming dependent on tobacco.

“There are an estimated 57,000 smokers in East Sussex and, each year, approximately 1000 deaths in the county are attributable to smoking. Most smokers started before they were 18 and illegal tobacco is sold at pocket money prices getting local children, in the poorest parts of the county, addicted to tobacco, perpetuating the cycle of health inequalities.”

Members of the public are encouraged to play their part in helping East Sussex Trading Standards and Public Health keep illegal tobacco products off the streets by reporting anything suspicious.

Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales is urged to report it by calling the illegal tobacco helpline on 0300 999 6999 or online at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk