Within the past few years campaigns have been launched across Surrey and Buckinghamshire, urging the public to recognise the damage sales of illegal tobacco can do in local communities and report the criminals involved in illegal sales.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards teamed up with Public Health, the local stop smoking service, and companies trained in the detection of illicit tobacco through the employment of sniffer dogs to deliver the campaigns. These comprised of roadshows, raising awareness about the dangers of illegal tobacco and cigarettes and the ease with which young people can become hooked on products sold at "pocket money" prices.
Everyone was encouraged to help stub it out by reporting shopkeepers and dealers who sell illicit tobacco. Information was also promoted about stop smoking support in Surrey and stop smoking support in Buckinghamshire.
The risks of illegal tobacco
Illegal tobacco across the country is becoming a significant problem with organised criminal gangs targeting vulnerable people by selling cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco at reduced prices. Surrey and Buckinghamshire are no exception with illicit tobacco being found by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards across the county. The availability of cheaper illegal tobacco undermines the efforts of smokers from quitting and instead encourages more smoking among both adults and young people.
There is strong evidence to show that illicit tobacco causes house fires. Illegal cigarettes do not meet the 'Reduced Ignition Propensity' safety standard. Since 2011, all cigarettes sold in the UK have to be manufactured to meet this standard which makes sure that cigarettes left unattended go out quickly using fire retardant paper.
Since illegal cigarettes are not manufactured legitimately, you can't be sure if this safety method is being used, leading to cigarettes staying lit and fires occurring.
Common brands of illegal tobacco to look out for include Jin Ling, Raquel, Richman and Camelford which cannot legitimately be bought in the UK. However, if tobacco products do not contain health warnings written in English or display the 'UK DUTY PAID' fiscal mark, they are also illegal.
How can you help?
Crimestoppers recognise that often people know what it is happening in their communities but are too scared to speak out to the authorities. Crimestoppers offers people an anonymous safe and secure route to inform on the criminals involved in illegal tobacco sales.
The Police and Trading Standards can investigate and take action against those who import or sell illegal tobacco products. If you think you know where the tobacco is being sold, stored or made call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via the Crimestoppers website.