Hartlepool health and consumer leaders are backing a new campaign against illegal tobacco after a survey found more than half of North East teenager smokers regularly buy from rogue dealers.
A survey by anti-smoking group Fresh revealed that 55% of underage smokers buy illegal tobacco from sources like so called tab houses. And 73% say they have been offered illegal tobacco.
Today Fresh launches a new Keep It Out campaign aimed at helping the public to spot illegal tobacco, report it and to encourage smokers not to buy it.
Ian Harrison, trading standards and licensing manager at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “Illicit tobacco trade brings crime to local neighbourhoods, and we want to stamp it out by encouraging open conversation in communities where it is bought and sold.
“Our Trading Standards team does not and will not hesitate to act upon intelligence and take sharp and strong enforcement action on those who are found to be selling illicit tobacco.”
The survey of more than 3,000 people found that in the Tees area illicit tobacco makes up 10% of all that smoked.
Private addresses are the main source accounting for almost half of sales, followed by pubs and clubs and shops.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “While fewer people than ever are now smoking, illegal cigarettes are often responsible for getting children initiated on smoking as they can buy it at pocket money prices from people who don’t care who they sell to.”
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said the council fully supports to the Keep It Out campaign.
He said: “Progress has been made, but we still need to keep downward pressure on the illicit tobacco market to crush this destructive criminal trade for good.”
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales can call Hartlepool Trading Standards team on (01429) 523362, visit www.keepitout.co.uk or call the illegal tobacco hotline on 0300 9990000.