Hundreds of people have come forward with illicit tobacco tip offs since the launch of a new local authority-funded campaign in the North East of England in November.
Trading Standards teams have received over 350 anonymous pieces of information about illicit tobacco sales since the Keep it Out campaign, run by Fresh and funded by 11 of the North East’s 12 local authorities, kicked off.
The campaign, to encourage the reporting of illicit tobacco and discourage smokers from buying it, includes radio adverts, household leaflet drops, posters, beermats for pubs and a guide for retailers.
More than half of all people who have seen the campaign said it made them feel more concerned about illicit tobacco in their community, while four in 10 said they would now be less likely to buy it and more likely to report local sales.
Fresh director Ailsa Rutter said: “We are delighted to see this campaign making people think twice about buying and selling illegal tobacco, and to see hundreds of pieces of information coming through. We know most people do not want illegal tobacco in their local community.
“We worked with Trading Standards colleagues and with smokers all over the North of England to develop the campaign, explore people’s understanding of the issues and find out what concerns members of the public the most about illegal tobacco sales.”
In Durham alone, the county council’s Trading Standards Team received over 50 pieces of intelligence relating to suspicions of illicit tobacco sales.
Four raids have since taken place, leading to the seizure of 110,000 illicit cigarettes and 115 Kg of hand rolling tobacco.
A number of individuals, including retailers, have also been prosecuted, while a store in Seaham was handed a closure order.
The campaign has subsequently been rolled out in West Yorkshire.
Illicit tobacco makes up around 12% of all tobacco smoked in the North East, a 2017 survey of over 3,000 people by Fresh found.
Private addresses are the leading source (42%) for illicit tobacco sales, followed by stores at 24%.
Anyone with information can report it anonymously at http://keep-it-out.co.uk/ or call the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 000.
Fresh was the UK’s first dedicated regional tobacco control programme, set up in the North East in 2005 to tackle the worst rates of smoking-related illness and death in the country.