Crackdown on £211 million illegal tobacco trade in the South West
A campaign is being relaunched today to clamp down on the £211 million illegal tobacco trade in the South West.
With an estimated one-in-five smokers across the region buying tobacco illegally, various groups have joined forces to wipe out the trade including Smokefree South West, HM Revenue & Customs, police, primary care trusts and local councils.
Fiona Andrews, Smokefree South West director, said progress had been made since February 2011 when the campaign was first launched.
She said: "The illegal tobacco market in the UK has halved in the last decade but still poses a real and present threat to children and local communities."
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Cigarettes and pouches of hand rolling tobacco were offered at "pocket money prices" making them available to youngsters, she said.
"The only people who benefit from this trade are the criminals who don't care about what is in the packets they sell," she said.
"Since illegal tobacco remains part of the range of smuggled and contraband goods traded by criminal gangs it is vital that steady, sustained pressure continues to be applied."
Bob Gaiger, South West spokesman for HMRC, said the illegal trade was a "very real problem" in the region.
He said: "Illegal tobacco is often the first stage in a chain of illegal trades that fund criminality. These criminals smuggle tobacco and cigarettes illegally into the country.
"Some of these will be counterfeit and will have been manufactured in completely unregulated environments to be sold at knock-down prices. They do not care about the impact on local businesses, your neighbourhood or your children's lives, targeting anyone and anywhere they can make money."
The £211million cost of illegal tobacco for South West shops