Hartlepool people are being urged to help stop local children getting hooked on smoking and keep crime out of their community.
The call comes after anti-smoking campaign group 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. Nearly seven out of ten also believe it brings crime into local communities.
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.
The independent Illicit Tobacco North East Study 2015 by researchers NEMS of 3,628 adults, found just over a third of smokers have tried illegal tobacco at some point. Over half of people who buy illegal tobacco get it from one single source.
Eight five per cent 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. And nine per cent of all tobacco smoked in the region is illegal.
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “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.”
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco can contact local trading standards or the HMRC Customs Hotline on 0800 595 000.