A new campaign to combat illicit tobacco and sales to children has launched across West Yorkshire and York as new figures reveal that 17% of smokers in the region routinely buy it.

The independent survey of 1,200 smokers and non-smokers across Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York also found that 36% of smokers had been offered illegal tobacco, while six out of 10 adults were “very uncomfortable” with it, and believed it to be an important issue for the local community.

Run by West Yorkshire Trading Standards across the six local authorities and with the help of HMRC, the campaign will see tougher enforcement efforts supported by a publicity campaign featuring radio adverts, posters and online material.

It is based on a successful scheme run in the North East and West that led to illicit tobacco consumption falling to 9% in and a spike in intelligence to trading standards. 

Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: “Children and young smokers are often targeted by people who sell illegal cigarettes, making it even easier for them to get hooked on smoking.

“The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to. This campaign is about raising awareness that illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime but harms neighbourhoods and brings crime into local communities. We are ready to respond to any intelligence we receive.”

People with information on illicit tobacco sales should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.