A joint operation has resulted in illegal cigarettes and tobacco being seized.
Last Tuesday (November 23) 15,500 illegal cigarettes and 9.75kg of hand rolled tobacco were seized from an off-licence in Bolton by Trading Standards, Bolton Police and the North West Illicit Tobacco Enforcement Team. Illegal tobacco trade makes it easier and more affordable for children to buy cigarettes and start to smoke.
The products were mainly non-duty paid but also included some fake cigarettes and cheap whites (brands made specifically for the illegal market). An investigation is now underway and the agencies will be working together to prepare a case for prosecution.
Over 8,000 teenagers aged 14 to 17 in the North West admitted to regularly buying fake cigarettes last year, according to a survey by Trading Standards in the North West.
Jan Hutchinson, Director of Public Health for NHS Bolton, said: “Illegal tobacco is easily available and cheap, making it a key reason why children and young people are able to start smoking.”
Councillor Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Regulations, said: “Buying or trading in illegal tobacco is a serious issue and can bring crime into the community.
“Many people who smoke may be tempted to buy tobacco from an acquaintance at work or in the pub who takes regular trips abroad – no questions asked and without realising the damage it is doing in their communities.
“I would encourage Bolton residents to stop and think about where cheap tobacco comes from and report any illegal sales.”
Andrea Crossfield, Director of Smokefree North West, said: “Smoking is an addiction of childhood with most smokers – 80 per cent, starting as teenagers. Tackling illicit tobacco is crucial if we’re going to prevent future generations form taking up smoking. This is a great example of what can be achieved when agencies work together to help tackle children’s access to cheap cigarettes.”
For more information or to report illegal sales call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
• A recent survey for Trading Standards North West carried out by Ci research interviewed young people in the North West during March/April 2009 and showed that illicit tobacco is a significant source for young people. Nearly 13,902 14 to 17 year olds completed the questionnaire and of these 22 per cent said they were smokers.
• When asked about their buying habits:
o Nearly one in five (19 per cent) bought from street sellers, vans, neighbours or private houses
o 60 per cent had bought packs of cigarettes with health warnings in a foreign language
o Up to 50 per cent said they had bought fake cigarettes
o There had been a significant fall since a similar survey in 2007 in the numbers saying they bought from off-licences and newsagents. This was attributed to the introduction of the law banning sales to the under 18s. However, those surveyed still cited such shops as one of their main sources of tobacco.
• Agencies involved in the development of the North of England Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health programme include regional public health organisations (including Smokefree North West, Fresh (Smoke Free North East), and Smokefree Yorkshire & the Humber), Trading Standards groups, Local Authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers, Local Police Forces, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and the newly formed UK Border Agency.
• Smokefree North West aims to tackle tobacco related health inequalities and assist local delivery in making sure people have the support they need to quit smoking.