Cheap cigarettes sold on the streets of Sheffield are being smuggled in by organised criminal gangs, it is claimed.
Now crime charity bosses are urging members of the public to turn in those selling illegal cigarettes across South Yorkshire.
The products – rolling tobacco and cigarettes – cost less than legal products, because tax has not been paid on them, costing the UK economy billions of pounds each year.
Test purchasing operations carried out by tobacco firm JTI found illegal tobacco and cigarettes being sold by retailers in Abbeydale, Pitsmoor and Darnall in Sheffield, as well as Aston in Rotherham.
Roger Critchell, Crimestoppers’ director of operations, said: “Crimestoppers has a responsibility to tackle all types of crime.
“Working alongside JTI UK, we hope to be able to clean the streets of illicit tobacco.
“The link this trade has to serious and organised crime is very real.
“With the help of information from the public on those supplying and selling these fake products, our aim is to ensure your community is a safe place to live.”
While some non UK duty-paid tobacco products are brought into the country legitimately by UK smokers returning from their holidays, others are smuggled in for illegal sale.
This activity is undertaken by individuals and criminal gangs – funding activities such as terrorism and drug dealing.
Mark Yexley, JTI media relations manager, said: “Law enforcement agencies across the world have identified links between tobacco smuggling and globalised crime.
“The man or woman in the street who sells illegal cigarettes could be the front for a criminal supply chain that can span the globe.
“The £5 spent by a smoker on illegal cigarettes in Sheffield today could potentially fund major global criminals and terrorist organisations tomorrow.”
Every year billions of cigarettes and hundreds of tonnes of illegal tobacco are seized.