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Drug Dealers Target Cornish Schoolchildren
5:46pm 30th June 2014
(Updated 5:46pm 30th June 2014)
It is claimed drug dealers are targeting children in Cornwall with bootleg tobacco.
Experts say they use cheap cigarettes to get them hooked, and then try to move them onto other things like booze and harder drugs.
New statistics show one in five smokers in Cornwall is using illegal tobacco, which is being smuggled into the Duchy.
They say it is being sold at "pocket money prices."
Now a campaign is being launched to stop the smuggling.
Dan Ward from Smoke Free Southwest told Pirate FM: "It provides a cheap and easy access to starting smoking, experimenting with smoking, particularly for young people. It's available at pocket money prices and that cannot be good for Cornwall. It's certainly not good for young people.
"Somebody who's going to sell illegal tobacco isn't going to ask about the age of the person buying it. It's about young people being able to access frankly something that is going to kill them if they keep smoking."
Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: "It is encouraging that more people are uncomfortable with illegal tobacco in their community, but we cannot afford to be complacent. We are moving in the right direction and by reducing the number of people who smoke illegal tobacco, we are helping people to lead healthier lives.
"This is a serious problem and one that the Council is tackling on an ongoing basis. This campaign is about helping the public understand and help us by providing information that will help us target the criminals who damage our community and people's health.
"Illegal tobacco is often sold at pocket money prices that encourage young people to take up smoking and make it easier for people to stay hooked on tobacco, so removing it from the market is key to protecting residents' health."
Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said: "All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco poses an additional threat to our children and communities, because it is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested in asking for proof of age.
"We are calling on members of the public to keep their eyes open and if they have any knowledge of illegal tobacco being sold then report it.
"Illegal tobacco can be most easily recognised if it's cheap. An £8 packet for less than half the price, or a pack or pouch with foreign health warnings is illegal. Anyone who will sell that won't ask questions about age, and might well have even more dangerous things to sell.
"If you see it, please report it, this isn't about some 'harmless bootlegging', it's about keeping criminals out of your neighbourhood and children and young people safe from harm and a potentially deadly habit."
As part of the campaign, Smokefree South West and Cornwall Council will be taking their message onto the streets with local events where people will be able to learn more about how illegal tobacco affects local communities in their area.
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. They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.
5:46pm 30th June 2014
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