EFFORTS in Poole to halt the illegal local tobacco trade have been stepped up.
A multi-partnership initiative was launched by Smokefree South West today. Working alongside HMRC are Trading Standards, local authorities, primary care trusts, the police, Crimestoppers and other enforcement partners.
HMRC figures show that progress is being made. In 2010 the associated revenue loss caused by illegal tobacco in the UK was estimated to be £2.18bn today that figure has dropped to £1.86bn. Illegal tobacco however remains a serious issue. Three in 10 smokers in Poole smoke illegal tobacco which has an equivalent retail value of £211m in the region alone.
As part of this on-going campaign pulling together the largest law enforcement organisations in the region, a key aim is to further reduce the number of people buying and being offered illegal tobacco in Poole.
Illegal tobacco brings criminals into local communities and into contact with children. As well as being unregulated, illegal tobacco is often bought at 'pocket money prices', selling for less than half the tax-paid price of legally sold tobacco. This attracts younger smokers and allows those who could otherwise not afford to smoke, to maintain their habit and undermining their attempts to quit.
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."
Peter Haikin, regulatory services manager, Borough of Poole, said: "Businesses should be aware that if illegal tobacco is being sold on their premises you are liable to a range of fines that could strip you of your livelihood."
The campaign will also be running a local public engagement event in Poole to help bring the message of the dangers illegal tobacco poses into local communities. Staff will be located in the Dolphin Shopping Centre on Saturday 9 March and Sunday 10 March providing advice and campaign materials.
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.
To pledge your support for the campaign or for more information on illegal tobacco go to www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk