The £211million cost of illegal tobacco for South West shops
THE trade in illegal tobacco costs South West retailers £211million a year, according to new figures.
In Cornwall alone 15 per cent of smokers use illegal tobacco.
A new campaign is being launched today by Smokefree South West to tackle the illegal tobacco trade in the South West.
The campaign involves a wide range of partners, including HM Revenue and Customs, Trading Standards, the police, Crimestoppers and other enforcement partners, primary care trusts and local authorities.
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Smokefree Southwest's 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.
"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."
Elizabeth Kirk, senior trading standards officer with Cornwall Council, said: "Cornwall Trading Standards is committed to disrupting the supply of illegal tobacco. Local businesses should be aware that if illegal tobacco is being sold on their premises they are liable to a range of fines that could strip them of their livelihood."
Bob Gaiger, South West spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs, said: "Illegal tobacco is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality.
"Together, we are focused on breaking the hold these criminal gangs have on local communities across the South West."
Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can contact Trading Standards anonymously at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
For more information visit www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk