SMOKERS need a ‘wake-up call’ on the increased health risks caused by illegal tobacco, said Hastings MP Amber Rudd.
She said that people buying under-the-counter cigarettes for a few pounds might not be so inclined to do so if they knew more about the level of harmful chemicals that these cheap packets contained.
Ms Rudd added: “I think they think what they are doing is buying the same cigarettes that they would get in Spain, or Belgium.
“What people need is a wake-up call, as smokers deserve to get the least damaging cigarettes.”
Following a BBC investigation in October last year into the illegal tobacco trade in Hastings and St Leonards, some of the counterfeit cigarettes were sent for testing, with one brand found to contain eight times as much lead as legal cigarettes.
Councillor Carl Maynard, lead member for economy, transport and environment at East Sussex County Council said: “Illegal cigarettes confiscated by our Trading Standards officers have often been on sale at less than half the normal retail price, with none of the necessary health warnings.
“This trade in illicit cigarettes and tobacco undermines public health messages that aim to encourage smokers to quit and prevent our children from starting.”
Hastings Police have been targeting the illegal tobacco trade in the town with Operation Haytown, and several arrests have been made so far, with thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit and illegal cigarettes confiscated.