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Campaign Launched To Tackle Illegal Tobacco Trade In Poole

A campaign to tackle the illegal tobacco trade in Poole has been launched.

The multi-partnership initiative was launched by Smokefree South West on Monday 25 February 2013. Working alongside HMRC, Trading Standards, Local Authorities, Primary Care Trusts, the Police, Crimestoppers and other enforcement partners, the campaign is part of on-going efforts to halt this illegal trade in the South West.

HMRC figures show that progress is being made. In 2010 the associated revenue loss caused by illegal tobacco in the UK was estimated to be £2.18bn [1], today that figure has dropped to £1.86bn [1]. Illegal tobacco however remains a serious issue. 3 in 10 (35.3%) [2] smokers in Poole smoke illegal tobacco which has an equivalent retail value of £211m [3] in the region alone.

As part of this on-going campaign pulling together the largest law enforcement organisations in the region, a key aim is to further reduce the number of people buying and being offered illegal tobacco in Poole.

Illegal tobacco brings criminals into local communities and into contact with children. As well as being unregulated, illegal tobacco is often bought at ‘pocket money prices’, selling for less than half the tax-paid price of legally sold tobacco. This attracts younger smokers and allows those who could otherwise not afford to smoke, to maintain their habit and undermining their attempts to quit.

In Poole, 3 out of 10 (28.9%) [2] people believe that illegal tobacco poses a real danger to children and 9 out of 10 (90.4%) [2] illegal tobacco smokers agree that the reduced price of illegal tobacco products allows them to smoke when they otherwise couldn't afford to.

Smokefree South West Director, Fiona Andrews said: "Significant progress has been made since February 2011 when we first launched the campaign to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco across the South West. Our collective efforts to tackle illegal tobacco are having a big effect, but more can be done.

"The illegal tobacco market in the UK has halved in the last decade but still poses a real and present threat to children and local communities. Cigarettes and pouches of hand rolling tobacco are offered to our children at pocket money prices making it cheap and all too easy for our children to smoke and become addicted.

"The only people who benefit from this trade are the criminals who don’t care about what is in the packets they sell. Since illegal tobacco remains part of the range of smuggled and contraband goods traded by criminal gangs it is vital that steady, sustained pressure continues to be applied."

South West spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs, Bob Gaiger said: "The trade in illegal tobacco across the South West is a very real problem, one that through this partnership initiative we are tackling, but there is more still to be done. Illegal tobacco is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality.

"These criminals smuggle tobacco and cigarettes illegally into the country. Some of these will be counterfeit and will have been manufactured in completely unregulated environments to be sold at knock-down prices. They do not care about the impact on local businesses, your neighbourhood or your children’s lives, targeting anyone and anywhere they can make money.

"Together, we are focused on breaking the hold these criminal gangs have on local communities across the South West."

Peter Haikin, Regulatory Services Manager, Borough of Poole, said: "Trading Standards are committed to disrupting the supply of illegal tobacco across the South West and through this initiative we are able to gather intelligence to help us complete this task. Businesses should be aware that if illegal tobacco is being sold on their premises you are liable to a range of fines that could strip you of your livelihood."

The campaign will also be running a local public engagement event in Poole to help bring the message of the dangers illegal tobacco poses into local communities. Staff will be located in the Dolphin Shopping Centre on Saturday 9 March and Sunday 10 March providing advice and campaign materials.

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org. They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.

To pledge your support for the campaign or for more information on illegal tobacco go to www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk

Notes:

[1] HMRC Measuring Tax Gaps 2012

[2] NEMS Market Research Illicit Tobacco - South West (2011)

[3] Problem Profile Baseline Assessment - Extent and Nature of Illegal Tobacco in the South West (2010)