The message from Fresh, North East regional programme for tobacco control, comes as it has relaunched the Keep It Out campaign to raise awareness and hopefully lead to new information from the public that trading standards teams can use to bring about enforcement.
Since 2017 the campaign has resulted in more than 1,900 tip offs from within the region – leading to seizures, court action and shops facing closure orders and fines.
A recent survey of nearly 1,900 people across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham found that 74 per cent of youngsters aged 14 to 17 who smoke have been offered illegal tobacco and 49 per cent have bought it.
Houses or ‘tab houses’ are the source for 75 per cent and shops 14 per cent of their illegal tobacco purchases.
A total of 43 per cent of adult buyers mainly purchase from a house or ‘tab house’ and 29 per cent from a shop.
Street sellers make up nine per cent of purchases and online only five per cent.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Cheap, illegal tobacco keeps smokers smoking, gets kids hooked and compounds health inequalities.”
Coun Colin Horncastle, cabinet member for community services at Northumberland County Council, said: “I strongly encourage residents to help us to keep illicit tobacco out of our communities.”
All people have to do to report anonymously is go to www.keep-it-out.co.uk or call 0300 999 0000.