DESPERATE thieves are targeting containers full of cigarette butts to re-use the tobacco.

The bins in Dorchester have been hit around 20 times in the last six months with witnesses reporting that thieves have been breaking into the bins and using the leftover tobacco to roll their own cigarettes.

Campaigners say the cost of replacing the liners is as much as £200.

Anti-litter group Stop the Drop puts up and maintains the butt bins around the county town after they were initially paid for by Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Dorchester Business Improvement District.

Chairman Bob Kerr said: “We just find it incredible that people should be so desperate for a smoke that they are prepared to go to such lengths.”

Phil Gordon, of the Dorchester BID, said news of the thefts is ‘disappointing’ because the bins have been such a success.

He added: “They have certainly made quite a significant difference to the amount of cigarette butts lying around in the town and it is a real shame that everyone can’t just leave them alone and use them for what they are designed for.

“Everyone suffers if they get broken.”

Mr Gordon said the bins had been placed around the town as part of a collaboration between a number of groups and projects.

With the thefts taking place at night, or the early hours of the morning, the group accepts that it is unlikely to ever find the culprits.

Mr Kerr added: “We are now placing Dorchester BID stickers on both liners and exteriors of the bins which are extremely difficult to remove, hoping to deter them.”

Inspector Steve Foot, of Dorchester Police, said officers are aware of the issue.