Rogue shopkeepers in North Tyneside are being warned they could be fined or lose their livelihood if they are tempted to sell illegal tobacco.
Store owners who sell smuggled or fake tobacco face losing their alcohol licence and huge tax bills from HMRC and closure orders.
In 2009, rogue shops were the main source for four per cent of illegal tobacco buyers.
Fresh is launching its Keep It Out campaign to encourage people in local communities to report sales of illegal tobacco. All people need to do is visit keep-it-out.co.uk to report local sales to trading standards with full anonymity.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, director of Fresh, said: “The trade in smuggled and fake tobacco is linked to organised crime and enables north east kids to smoke.
“Most people do not want it in their local community and it is great to see more and more people giving information to help keep it out.
“The vast majority of shopkeepers are honest and are appalled by the sale of illegal tobacco. However, the law is catching up with the dishonest few who think they can get away with it.”
Eden Noblett, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Shopkeepers selling illegal tobacco deprive the UK of money which should be used to fund our vital public services, and undermine honest and hardworking traders.
“Anyone caught with illegal tobacco can face life-changing consequences. We will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco.”
Last year figures from HM Revenue and Customs show bills for tax and penalties totalling £11.5m were issued to individuals and businesses caught storing and selling illicit tobacco more than once.
Illegal tobacco has helped over half of underage smokers in the north east to get hooked on smoking.
Figures from the 2017 North East Illegal Tobacco Survey found 55 per cent of children aged 14 to 15 who smoke say they buy illegal tobacco from sources like ‘tab houses’ and shops, while 73 per cent say they have been offered illegal tobacco.
Anyone with information about houses, shops, pubs or individuals selling illegal tobacco can give information online at www.keep-it-out.co.uk or by calling the illegal tobacco hotline at 0300 999 0000.
All information will be treated anonymously.