MEMBERS of the public are being asked to help snuff out illegal tobacco trade in Hampshire in a series of roadshows.

The Hampshire County Council initiative aim to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal tobacco, particularly for younger people, and to show how residents can help support the County Council’s trading standards team to tackle the problem in local communities.

Councillor Patricia Stallard, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for public health, said: “The sale of illegal tobacco is a serious criminal offence. Far from being a victimless crime, illegal tobacco helps fund organised crime and can make it even more difficult for those trying to give up smoking.

“These criminal activities severely damage the local economy and legitimate traders by gaining a competitive advantage at their expense, and taking trade away from genuine hard-working businesses.

“As it becomes harder for under 18s to buy from legitimate sources, illegal tobacco trading creates a cheap source that fuels smoking by young people - giving them habits that put their health at risk into adulthood.”

The roadshows will be making a stop on Thursday, February 15 in Wells Place, Eastleigh town centre.

Three specialist detection dogs, Phoebe, YoYo and Scamp, and their handlers from B.W.Y Canine, will be the stars at the roadshows, demonstrating their skills in sniffing out hidden tobacco.

They work alongside the County Council’s Trading Standards Service, going into premises to search for illegal tobacco so it can be removed from sale.

Illegal tobacco products are either cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco, shisha or bidis, which have been smuggled, bootlegged or are counterfeit.

Illegal tobacco makes up around 10 per cent of the tobacco market in the UK with 39 per cent of hand-rolled tobacco being illicit.

It is sold by unscrupulous shop owners and by individual dealers at houses and in the streets, in the hearts of local communities.