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Illegal tobacco dealers are making it easy for kids to smoke in the North West


New research has shown that the availability of illegal tobacco is making it far too easy for children and young people to smoke. 50% of the tobacco bought by 14 to 15 year olds is illegal, a much higher percentage than the amount bought by adults, and research shows that 1 in 4 young smokers regularly gets offered illegal tobacco, which is also far more than adults.

Dealers target children and young people by selling them single cigarettes, which makes it more affordable for them and gets them hooked so that they come back for more. Illegal tobacco is also linked to low-level and large-scale organised crime, so it helps fund drugs and weapon smuggling, child exploitation and money laundering.

As part of its ambition to make smoking history for children, Tobacco Free Futures (formerly Smokefree North West) has launched a campaign to encourage communities to take action against the dealers. The “Keep It Out” campaign launches on 24th October 2011, aiming to raise awareness of illegal tobacco and the harmful effect it has on young people in the North West

Andrea Crossfield, Director of Tobacco Free Futures said:“It doesn’t matter if it’s being sold in fag houses, shops, parks or by neighbours or family friends. Illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to get hold of cigarettes and helps to get them hooked into a deadly addiction to tobacco. The Keep It Out campaign is a way of letting concerned parents and community members know that they can take action and do something about this.”

Peter Astley, Regional Illicit tobacco Lead for Trading StandardsNorth Westsaid:“I welcome this campaign as we know only too well that the people selling illegal tobacco are often selling other illegal products such as drugs and weapons. I would urge people to call Crimestoppers if you know of anyone selling illegal tobacco. It’s dangerous and harmful and we need to keep it out.”

Mike O’Grady, HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation said:
“Tobacco fraud is estimated to cost the taxpayer over £2 billion per year in lost revenues, money that could otherwise be used to fund key public services. HMRC supports this campaign and will continue to work closely with other agencies to tackle tobacco smuggling at street level and to protect legitimate businesses from the impact of the illicit trade.”

Anyone with information to share about illegal tobacco is encouraged to phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit


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Notes to editors

Illegal tobacco stats and facts

  • 50% of the tobacco bought by 14 to 15 year olds is illegal, a much higher percentage than the amount bought by adults (NEMS 2011)
  • 1 in 4 young smokers regularly gets offered illegal tobacco, which is far more often than adults (NEMS 2011)
  • It’s thought that 1 in 7 young smokers have gone to a private address (or fag house) to buy illegal cigarettes (NEMS 2011)
  • 79% people support a crackdown on illegal tobacco (NEMS 2011)

Smoking stats and facts

  • Smoking kills half of all long-term smokers
  • Over 80,000 people inEnglanddied prematurely from a smoking-related disease in 2009. That’s equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every couple of days
  • 200, 000 people inEnglandtake up smoking every year – more than 80% are teenagers
  • Smoking is responsible for more preventable deaths than the other six main causes combined, such as alcohol and diabetes

New research

NEMS market research, May 2011

  • A total of 4111 interviews was conducted across the North East (1370) andNorth West(2741)

–        Includes 2082 current smokers and 381 illicit tobacco buyers

  • Sampled ensuring a small sub sample of all 36 local authority trading standards areas
  • Methodologies for this study were telephone and face to face in-street interviewing
  • The two complemented each other in helping deliver a representative sample
  • Respondents were contacted via the telephone during the day, evening and weekend, sampling each area
  • Face to face interviewing was conducted on different days of the week including Saturdays across the two regions
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