The illegal tobacco trade is reportedly rife in east Fife – with Buckhaven and Leven among the easiest areas for an illicit smoke.
The Fife findings came in a Scotland-wide study gleaned from test purchase exercises.
Trained ‘buyers’ used locally-gained information to identify places where unlawful tobacco was likely to be sold.
A three-day operation yielded four cartons and nine packs of illicit cigarettes and nine pouches of ‘roll your own’ tobacco (RYO) in 17 separate transactions.
Ex-Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector, Will O’Reilly, said: “Right across Scotland, we purchased illicit tobacco in great volumes and east Fife was one of the areas in which we found it easy to access.
“Through our findings, it would generally appear there is a correlation between areas of deprivation and the illicit tobacco trade.
“We know organised crime is behind the trade.”
In a pub in Buckhaven, an older man sold the test purchaser two packs of a known brand of cigarettes, which he produced from his pocket, for £8. He said he was selling in the premises most days.
Also in Buckhaven, a private address was pointed out by smokers outside a pub. The occupier sold one pouch of a known RYO for £7.
In a pub in Leven, a woman working behind the bar sold the test purchaser illicit cigarettes kept under the counter on two occasions. Four packs of a known brand were sold at £4 per pack.
And in a Leven newsagent, the shopkeeper told the test purchaser to come back the next day, which he did, and was sold ‘white brand’ (smuggled into the UK from another country) cigarettes for £4.50 per pack.
The shopkeeper was very open about it, even asking the test purchaser: “You don’t like these cheap ones, do you?”