Steve Denham, the campaigning retailer who is attempting to convince government that responsible retailers are not the main source of cigarettes to children, has been targeted by organised criminals - who stole only cigarettes.

Steve's West Chiltington store was one of several in West Sussex to be raided last week, with tobacco products the only items taken in each case.

Three men set off alarms and smashed through doors and the tobacco gantry to make off with more than £2,000-worth of stock, a day after a gang took £4,000-worth of cigarettes from a Londis store in the nearby town of Pulborough.

He told C-Store: "You couldn't ask for clearer demonstration of how misguided government thinking is. This was organised crime, they took only the cigarettes. It's clearly a very profitable crime and the infrastructure is in place to make a lot of money out of stolen or imported cigarettes.

"Government targets small retailers as the source of supply to children, while criminal gangs pick on us, because they know the strength of the black market."

The detective inspector who attended the scene confirmed Steve's fears that the attack was not an isolated incident. "He told us how wide-scale this crimewave is," Steve said. "The investigation is across several counties."

The intruders threw wine bottles at Steve when he arrived to see why the alarms had gone off. Damage to the doors, gantry and tills meant the store had to remain closed for three days.

Steve praised Spar, the Post Office and Smiths News for their help and understanding as he and his family recovered from the raid.