Residents in North Tyneside are being urged to help stop local children getting hooked on smoking and keep crime out of their community.
Latest research by Fresh into the illegal tobacco market shows that although there is a drop in its use, there are still concerns over its impact on smokers’ health.
Dealers just do not care who they sell to. To them, children smoking is a business opportunityLisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh
It showed that more buyers of illegal tobacco have switched to hand-rolled tobacco since 2009, with hand-rolled now making up nearly half of the regional illegal tobacco market.
The independent Illicit Tobacco North East Study 2015 by NEMS shows nine per cent of all tobacco smoked in the region is illegal, half the estimated level nationally 15 years ago.
Alan Burnett, principal trading standards and licensing officer for North Tyneside Council, said: “In North Tyneside there is a zero tolerance in dealing with illicit tobacco.
“Anyone that we find selling counterfeit or non-duty tobacco paid will be prosecuted.”
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “Although less than one in ten 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.”
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can contact local trading standards or the HMRC Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000.