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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Ice cream ploy by tobacco sellers
Ice cream van
Schoolchildren have been targeted by illegal sellers
Ice cream vans used to sell smuggled cigarettes outside schools have been seized in raids mounted by customs officials

The seizures in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire followed a month-long surveillance involving 40 officers.

Customs and Excise said more than 70,000 smuggled cigarettes and 18.5kg of hand rolling tobacco, worth more than 18,000, were seized.

Ice cream vans
Customs said sellers showed total disregard
Four ice cream vans, a mobile shop, a van and four cars, worth about 27,000, were also confiscated.

A spokesman for Customs and Excise said two of the ice cream vans were parked outside secondary schools in Coatbridge and Wishaw.

One had 1,308 cigarettes on board and customs said the odd number, rather than full packets, could indicate individual cigarettes were being sold to children.

Customs' Scottish detection chief Dave Clark said: "This latest operation demonstrates our determination to tackle this serious criminal activity at all levels of supply.

"Those involved with these ice cream vans are not concerned who they sell tobacco products to with many underage children from schools among their potential customers."

Mr Clark said those people who bought black market cigarettes should think about their actions.

"They are stealing taxpayers' money that could be better spent on local services while lining the pockets of criminals prepared to exploit the most vulnerable members of society," he said.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Scotland
MSPs back tobacco adverts ban
06 Feb 01 | Business
Tobacco firm wins court case
27 Nov 00 | Business
Cigarette smuggling 'costs 4bn'
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