The UK's first multi-agency scheme to clamp down on the illicit tobacco trade has been set up in the North of England.

The project was officially launched in Leeds by secretary of state for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls.
"Although from October 1 2007 it became illegal to sell tobacco to young people under the age of 18, too many still have access to smuggled and counterfeit tobacco," he said.

The illicit tobacco trade provided an "easily accessible source of cigarettes for children and young people, who were finding it more difficult to buy from newsagents and off licences," added Dr Cathy Read, consultant in public health for NHS Yorkshire and the Humber.

A UK-wide launch of the Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health programme due this month has been put back until the autumn.

An estimated 70m cigarettes and 10 tonnes of illegal tobacco were seized in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) operations in Yorkshire and Humberside in 2008/9.