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1 in 5 in Cornwall Smoking Illegal Tobacco

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7:01am 25th February 2013

Pirate FM has learnt one in five smokers in Cornwall is buying illegal cigarettes.

Two thirds say it is the only way they can afford to light up.

It is as stats show almost a 150m packets are smuggled into the southwest every year.

Customs officials are heading up a new crackdown and quit campaign.

In Cornwall more than 6 out of 10 (65.7%) people believe that illegal tobacco poses a real danger to children. More than 6 out of 10 (66.3%) illegal tobacco smokers agree that the reduced price of illegal tobacco products allows them to smoke when they otherwise couldn't afford to.

Smokefree South West 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. Our collective efforts to tackle illegal tobacco are having a big effect, but more can be done.

“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 across the South West and through this initiative we are able to gather intelligence to help us complete this task.  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.”

South West spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs, Bob Gaiger said: "The trade in illegal tobacco across the South West is a very real problem, one that through this partnership initiative we are tackling, but there is more still to be done. Illegal tobacco is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality.

“These criminals smuggle tobacco and cigarettes illegally into the country. Some of these will be counterfeit and will have been manufactured in completely unregulated environments to be sold at knock-down prices.  They do not care about the impact on local businesses, your neighbourhood or your children’s lives, targeting anyone and anywhere they can make money.

“Together, we are focused on breaking the hold these criminal gangs have on local communities across the South West.”

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. 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 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org. They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.

7:01am 25th February 2013

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