FOUR newsagents have been successfully prosecuted in a council crackdown on illegal tobacco sales including supplying single cigarettes to under-18s.

The Blackburn retailers were targeted following complaints from the public.

The operation included the use of 15-year-old volunteers to make test purchases.

Two newsagents pleaded guilty to selling a single cigarette to a child under 18 and a third was found guilty in his absence of the same offence.

Cllr Suleman Khonat, president of the Blackburn with Darwen Newsagents Federation, said: “Hopefully these prosecutions will act as a deterrent. Selling cigarettes to under-18s is totally unacceptable.”

Northgate News in Northgate pleaded guilty to the possession of counterfeit tobacco not in the legally-required plain packaging.

Blackburn Magistrates’ Court gave the boss a conditional discharge, and imposed a £20 victim surcharge and awarded £600 costs to Blackburn with Darwen Council which brought the prosecutions.

The owner of Nadeem’s in Cardwell Place, Blackburn, was given conditional discharge, a £40 victim surcharge and ordered to pay £600 costs to the council.

Blakey Moor Newsagents of Blakey Moor was fined £100 and ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £600 towards the council’s costs. Both pleaded guilty to selling a cigarette to an under-18.

The bosses of HRS Newsagents in Whalley New Road failed to attend court. They were convicted of selling a single cigarette to an under-18 customer. The magistrates imposed a fine of £1,320, a £132 victim surcharge and council costs of £1,100.

Cllr Jim Smith, the council’s environment boss, said: “These premises are breaking the law, pure and simple. Selling cigarettes to under-18s is not simply illegal but immoral.”