Campaign launched to tackle Somerset's illegal tobacco trade

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By abbie_taunton | Monday, February 25, 2013, 15:09

A new campaign is being launched to tackle the trade of illegal tobacco in Somerset.

Smokefree South West are launching the campaign in a multi-partnership alongside HMRC, Trading Standards, The Police, Crimestoppers and other enforcement partners.

Statistics from HMRC revenue and customs show that nearly 3 out of 10 smokers in Somerset are smoking illegal tobacco.

The trade of illegal tobacco is currently unregulated and can often be bought at 'pocket money prices' in local communities which is likely to attract younger smokers.

Smokefree South West Director, Fiona Andrews said: "Significant progress has been made since February 2011 when we first launched the campaign to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco across the South West.

"Our collective efforts to tackle illegal tobacco are having a big effect, but more can be done.

"The illegal tobacco market in the UK has halved in the last decade but it still poses a real and present threat to our children and local communities.

"Cigarettes and pouches of hand rolling tobacco are offered to children at pocket money prices making it cheap and all too easy for our children to smoke and become addicted".

"The only people who benefit from this trade are the criminals who don't care about what is in the packets they sell. Since illegal tobacco remains part of the range of smuggled and contraband goods traded by criminal gangs it is vital that steady, sustained pressure continues to be applied."

Eight out of ten illegal tobacco smokers in Somerset agree that the reduced price of illegal tobacco products allows them to smoke when they otherwise couldn't afford to.

Stewart Brock, NHS Somerset Public Health Specialist said, "Smoking is an addiction that is mostly acquired in childhood, with the majority of smokers starting before the age of 18.

"Illegal tobacco enables young people to buy tobacco cheaply, when otherwise it would often be too expensive to consider."

Statistics show that around 28% of Somerset smokers smoke illegal tobacco and the South West trade is equivalent to £211 million in retail value.

In addition it has been estimated that 25,000 children in the UK start smoking by the age of 16 and illegal tobacco contributes to this statistic.

The campaign will also be running a local public engagement event in Somerset in March to help bring the message of the dangers illegal tobacco poses into local communities.

Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or  call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

      

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