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People urged to help keep illegal tobacco out of local communities

Illciit-keep-it-out

 

PEOPLE are being urged to help stop local children getting hooked on smoking and keep crime out of their community after Fresh released the latest research into the illegal tobacco market.

 

 Nine out of ten North East adults think illegal tobacco is a danger to children, helping get teenagers hooked on a lethal addiction, and nearly 7/10 believe it brings crime into local communities, lining the pockets of local crooks.

 

More buyers of illegal tobacco have also switched to hand rolled tobacco since 2009 and "hand rolled" now makes up nearly half of the regional illegal tobacco market, with more women now smoking roll ups. Although hand rolled tobacco contains the same poisonous chemicals like arsenic and carbon monoxide, worryingly the survey found 44% of men and 29% of women wrongly believed roll ups contain fewer chemicals than manufactured cigarettes.

 

The independent Illicit Tobacco North East Study 2015 by NEMS of 3628 adults, found:

 

·       9% of all tobacco smoked in the region is illegal, which is half the estimated level nationally 15 years ago in 2000

·       Less than a fifth of smokers (18%) buy illegal tobacco sometimes or often compared to 22% of smokers in 2009

·       Just over a third of smokers have tried illegal tobacco at some point.  Over half of people (55%) of smokers who buy illegal tobacco get it from one single source

·       23% of illegal tobacco buyers buy it from fag houses, 15% buy it from a pub or club, 16% buy it from a shop

·       12% of current smokers say they are often offered illicit tobacco, up slightly from the 9% recorded in 2013

·       Two thirds of current smokers would like to be able to quit smoking, with nearly half saying they would like to quit "a lot".

·       80% of smokers regret ever starting to smoke

·       85% of adults support businesses needing a licence to sell tobacco which can be removed if they are caught selling tobacco to children or selling illegal tobacco

 

Lisa Surtees, Acting Director of Fresh, said: "Although less than 1 in 10 cigarettes is now illegal regionally, this survey shows illegal tobacco is still a problem in some communities and reveals the type of locations like houses and shops where it is being sold.

 

"Dealers just do not care who they sell to. To them, children smoking is a business opportunity.  Trading standards has played a key role in helping take more illegal tobacco off the streets.

 

"It is also a concern that so many people think roll ups are less harmful. All tobacco releases a toxic cocktail of poisons which cause cancer, heart disease and COPD.

 

"We need to consider whether a licence to sell tobacco at some point in the future would help us reduce the illegal tobacco market even further."

 

Richard Ferry, from the North East Trading Standards Association, said: "While people may have once turned a blind eye to illegal tobacco, most people now want it kept out of their neighbourhood as they do not want local children to smoke, and do not want local criminals profiting from it.

 

"Action to tackle illegal tobacco gives children one less opportunity to smoke, and we are appealing to anyone who knows where it is being sold locally to pass on this information in full anonymity so we can help keep it out."

 

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: "We are determined to stop the supply of illegal tobacco, which makes it too easy for a new generation to get hooked on smoking and even harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.

 

"Thanks to a wealth of intelligence from the public and honest traders, we have really stepped up our action against this illicit trade.

 

"This type of activity not only undermines the work of services aimed at helping smokers give up but also has a significant impact on honest businesses – there is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that it increases the availability and supply to young people, encouraging them to start smoking. It is also known to have links to other criminal activity.

 

"We would urge anyone with any information about illegal tobacco, including where it may be being sold locally, to call us on Durham Trading Standards on 03000 261016 or email tobacco@durham.gov.uk so we can continue the fight against those involved in this illicit trade."

 

Fresh and local authorities across the region are part of the national Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Partnership, working with HMRC, police, trading standards and the NHS to reduce supply and demand.

 

Illegal tobacco comprises of three types – genuine cigarettes smuggled in without duty being paid, factory-made brands made in Russia purely for the illegal market, and counterfeits.

 

Concerted action against illegal tobacco dealers by enforcement teams during 2014 as part of the ongoing nationwide "Operation Henry" led to the seizure of over 65,000 cigarettes in the North East.

 

Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can contact local trading standards or the HMRC Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000.

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