Trading standards teams have been active across these areas – seizing 1,030,900 illegal cigarettes and nearly 340kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco in 2021/22 through Operation CeCe, a partnership between National Trading Standards and HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.
Around 11 per cent of the total tobacco market in the North East is illegal.
Since 2017, the campaign has resulted in more than 2,000 tip offs from within the region. This information has so far led to trading standards seizing illicit tobacco, taking sellers to court, closing down shops, issuing fines and removing alcohol licences.
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Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh (the North East regional programme for tobacco control), said: “We know that two thirds of long-term smokers will die from smoking, regardless of where they buy their tobacco, how much they pay for it or whether they smoke cigarettes or roll-ups.
“But cheap, illegal tobacco keeps smokers smoking, gets kids hooked and makes health inequalities even worse, which is the last thing we need right now.
“Dealers in illegal tobacco are linked to all kinds of criminal activity and they really don’t care if local children buy it.”
All people have to do to report anonymously is visit www.keep-it-out.co.uk or call 0300 999 0000.