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Stamping out illicit tobacco trade

Waltham Forest’s Trading Standards and Public Health teams have been working together to find out more about the availability of cheap illicit tobacco in the borough, and crack down on anyone trying to sell these products.

Along with six other London boroughs, the Council commissioned a survey entitled Illicit and illegal tobacco in North Central and North East London, which revealed support for authorities taking more action against illicit tobacco sales.

The survey, which asked more than 1,200 members of the public about their experiences of being offered or buying cheap tobacco, and what they felt the impacts of this trade were on local people, found that 56 per cent agreed that the availability of cheap tobacco made it easier for children to take up smoking. And, 52 per cent agreed that its availability made it more difficult for smokers to try to quit.

Cllr Ahsan Khan, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Protecting residents and particularly young people from the harms of tobacco is hugely important. Cheap tobacco makes it easier for young people to get cigarettes, due to the lower price and unregulated sales, and its lower cost can also make more difficult for people to try and quit.

“I would urge anyone considering quitting smoking to contact Smokefree Waltham Forest on freephone 0800 032 0102. You are four times more likely to quit with support, and it is never too late to give up the habit.”

Illegal tobacco products are made up of genuine but smuggled products as well as counterfeit and illegally manufactured tobacco products.

In recent months, Waltham Forest’s Trading Standards officers have used test purchasing data along with other sources of intelligence to carry out a number of raids at premises thought to be selling illicit tobacco.

One operation alone saw them successfully seize more than 16,000 illicit cigarettes with help from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and sniffer dogs – with action currently being taken against the retailers.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We will not tolerate the sale of illicit tobacco in Waltham Forest, and will do everything we can to put a stop to it. Some people think that the illicit tobacco trade is a victimless crime, but it has links to organised criminal gangs, and proceeds fund other criminal activity which negatively impacts on our communities. It also undermines local retailers who are selling legitimate products at the correct price.

“Anyone with information about sales of illicit tobacco can support our efforts to crack down on this illegal practice by getting in touch with our trading standards team, in confidence, via the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.”

Chartered Trading Standards Institute national tobacco survey, published last month, has shown a 26 per cent increase in people reporting illegal tobacco sales to local councils. The survey also found that illegally manufactured cigarettes are unlikely to contain self-extinguishing properties, designed to prevent a dropped or discarded cigarette from causing fires.

Notes to editors

The North East North Central London Illicit Tobacco report was conducted by Babelfish Behaviour Change Ltd, on behalf of the London boroughs of Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. Surveys were conducted between June and August 2015.

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