Illegal tobacco sold at pocket money prices
Almost three out of ten smokers in Somerset smoke illegal tobacco.
The trade in the South West is equivalent to £211m retail value and the tobacco is often sold at "pocket money prices".
Smokefree South West islaunching a multi-partnership campaign alongside HMRC, Trading Standards, the Police, Crimestoppers and other enforcement partners, Primary Care Trusts and Local Authorities as part of on-going efforts to tackle the illegal tobacco trade in the South West.
The campaign against illegal tobacco aims to reduce the number of people buying and being offered illegal tobacco in Somerset. The trade brings criminals into contact with children.
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Illegal tobacco sells for less than half the price of legally sold tobacco. This attracts younger smokers and allows those who could otherwise not afford to smoke.
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.
"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".
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.
"Price is the most effective way to help people quit smoking, and is very important in preventing young people becoming addicted to this deadly product. The illegal trade undermines our fight against cancer, lung and cardio-vascular diseases that kill almost 900 people a year in Somerset."
The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Somerset County Council Cabinet Member, David Hall, said: "Trading Standards are committed to disrupting the supply of illegal tobacco across the South West and through this initiative we are able to gather intelligence to help us complete this task. "Businesses should be aware that if illegal tobacco is being sold on their premises they are liable to a range of fines that could strip them of their livelihood."
Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at http://www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk">www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org">http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org. They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.