Last year we launched a campaign across Surrey, urging the public to recognise the damage sales of illegal tobacco can do in local communities and report the criminals involved in illegal sales. Surrey Trading Standards is joining up with other agencies and authorities throughout Surrey in support of the campaign.
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 is no exception with illicit tobacco being found by Surrey Trading Standards in many boroughs across the county. The presence of illegal tobacco causes four times as many deaths as illegal drugs because it both discourages smokers from quitting and encourages more smoking especially with children taking up the habit. Children are often targeted by these gangs selling cigarettes at pocket money prices.
Illegal tobacco is uncontrolled and can contain very high levels of tar, nicotine, lead and many other dangerous chemicals and contaminants. In some cases they have been found to contain rat droppings or even asbestos. In addition, since 2011, all tobacco paper products in the EU must be self-extinguishing in a bid to reduce the risk of house fires. Illegal tobacco products are unregulated so it is unlikely that they will comply with this requirement and therefore present a serious fire risk.
The trade in illegal tobacco has serious consequences for Surrey as criminal gangs infiltrate our communities. There is evidence that these gangs are then using the same routes for the importation and distribution of other drugs such as cannabis and heroin.
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. Contacting the charity is completely anonymous, calls are not recorded, IP addresses are untraceable and no one will ever know it was you who called, not even Crimestoppers.
The campaign is supported by Surrey Crimestoppers, Surrey Smokefree Alliance, Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue, Surrey County Council, HM Revenue and Customs and local District and Borough Councils in Surrey.