News item

New “Keep It Out” campaign launches across West Yorkshire and York to tackle illegal tobacco

A new campaign is launching across West Yorkshire and York (14 July) to tackle the trade in illegal tobacco and stop dealers who sell to children. 

The trade in cheap, illegal tobacco might seem like a victimless crime but it makes it easier for children to smoke and brings crime into local communities. 

Illegal cigarettes and tobacco are usually sold at half or even a third of the price, in a range of locations such as pubs and clubs, shops, from private houses or from street hawkers.  

Smokers are urged to think about the impact local illicit sales have on enabling children to smoke before they buy. Anyone who knows where it is being sold is being urged to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. 

The campaign is being run by West Yorkshire trading standards across the Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield areas and City of York Council. The six local authorities are collaborating to launch the Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health in West Yorkshire and York Programme. The work is being commissioned by the six local authorities’ public health teams and involves trading standards, health and HMRC working together. 

A major independent surveyi of over 1,200 smokers and non-smokers across Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York reveals:  

  •  Around 17% of smokers buy illegal tobacco  
  • Illegal tobacco makes up around 11% of the total tobacco market  
  • 85% of adults are concerned about young people getting hold of illegal tobacco 
  • 36% of smokers have been offered illegal tobacco 
  • Six out of ten adults are “very uncomfortable” with illegal tobacco and see it as an important issue for the local community 
  • 8 out of 10 smokers regret starting 

Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: “Children and young smokers are often targeted by people who sell illegal cigarettes, making it even easier for them to get hooked on smoking. The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to. This campaign is about raising awareness that illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime but harms neighbourhoods and brings crime into local communities. We are ready to respond to any intelligence we receive. 

If you don’t want local children to smoke, and you know where illegal tobacco is being sold, we would encourage you to call Crimestoppers in complete anonymity.” 

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We know the communities which suffer most from the damage smoking does are in some of our poorest neighborhoods, so as part of our commitment to improving the health of people in our most deprived areas fastest, we want to help the next generation grow up smoke free. Because tobacco kills half of all long term smokers, whether legal or illegal, we are determined to cut smoking rates in Leeds. 

As most smokers want to give up smoking, if somebody offers them cheap tobacco it really undermines them. It’s also really worrying that children are targeted by unscrupulous dealers. Leeds City Council is taking this issue extremely seriously as part of our efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking and to cut the number of children who take up smoking every year.”

A spokesperson from HMRC said: “HMRC is fully committed to supporting the 'Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health' programme.  HMRC works closely with other enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK.  Seizing illicit product is only one of the tools used; the focus is on using a range of interventions, from penalties to prosecutions, to encourage compliance and maximise deterrent.”   

Enforcement efforts are being supported by a publicity campaign featuring radio adverts, posters and materials distributed in local communities and a website http://www.keep-itout.co.uk/ where people can find out more about the problems with illegal tobacco. 

The campaign is based on work that has ran in the North East and the North West, leading to a reduction in illegal tobacco consumption down to 9% in 2014 and a spike in intelligence to trading standards. 

Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or tell their local trading standards team or police. 

DATE: 14 July 2014