FLOOR sweepings, rat droppings, fibre glass and cement dust – all things that young people across Pembrokeshire could be smoking if they buy counterfeit tobacco at “dinner money prices".
That's the warning of Stuart Phillips of Llandissilio who delivers drug awareness education to schools and youth clubs across Dyfed-Powys, and says he has been told of a worrying rise in the number of youngsters turning to dodgy dealers for a cheap lunchtime smoke.
Crate loads of illegal tobacco, predominately made in China, gets shipped to the UK every day, and distributed to dealers who sell it on for a fraction of the price of the genuine product.
Stuart said: “People think they’re buying the real thing, but they’re not, it’s counterfeit. A large pouch of a leading brand should cost about £18 to £20 in the shops, but I’ve come across more and more kids who’ve bought it for as little as £4 or £5.
Stuart, whose spaniel Phoebe is a specialist at sniffing out counterfeit tobacco, has raised the issue with the health board and trading standards in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, but says he has had little response.
He said: “No one’s bothered. We’re one of a few places in the UK that hasn’t got an illegal tobacco campaign.
"In other areas lots of departments join up, including the council, health board and police, and they tell children about illegal tobacco, what’s in it, and that they should stay clear of it.
“Smoking is bad for you, but smoking this stuff it absolutely awful. It’s been found to have fibre glass in it, cement dust, because a lot of the time it’s all mixed in a cement mixer, and it’s got all sorts of floor sweepings, including rat droppings, rat poisons, and insects.”
A spokesman from Pembrokeshire County Council said: “Mr Phillips has been in contact with a member of our trading standards team but unfortunately was unable to be specific in the nature of his intelligence and as a result we were unable to follow up his claims in this instance.
“This is an issue the trading standards department takes very seriously and if Mr Phillips, or anyone else, has specific intelligence about counterfeit tobacco being supplied then we would certainly be interested in investigating further.”