BASINGSTOKE residents will be asked for their help in identifying sellers of illegal tobacco on Friday.

A series of Hampshire County Council roadshows aim to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal tobacco and show how residents can help tackle the problem of sales of the products.

A roadshow will take place outside the Willis Museum on Friday from 9am to 3.30pm.

Councillor Patricia Stallard, the 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.”

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

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

It is estimated that illegal tobacco makes up around 10% of the tobacco market in the UK.