Health boss backs illegal tobacco campaign

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A NEW campaign launched this week by Tobacco Free Futures aimed at making smoking history for children has the full support of a health boss at NHS East Lancashire.

The campaign, called “Keep It Out”, encourages communities to take action against the dealers and aims to raise awareness of illegal tobacco and the harmful effect it has on the young people of East Lancashire.

Dr Sohail Bhatti, Interim Director of Public Health at NHS East Lancashire, said: “On average, over 500 people in East Lancashire die each year because of smoking-related diseases. We need to work together in our communities to stop illegal cigarettes being sold to children so they don’t become one of these terrible statistics in the future.”

New research has shown the availability of illegal tobacco is making it far too easy for children and young people to smoke. Half of the tobacco bought by 14 to 15-year-olds is illegal, a much higher percentage than the amount bought by adults, and research shows one in four young smokers regularly gets offered illegal tobacco, which is also far more than adults.

Dealers target children and young people by selling them single cigarettes, which makes it more affordable for them and gets them hooked so they come back for more. Illegal tobacco is also linked to low-level and large-scale organised crime, so it helps fund drugs and weapon smuggling, child exploitation and money laundering.

Dr Bhatti said: “It’s worrying that East Lancashire is a hotspot for illegal tobacco. I welcome this campaign and the very valuable work Trading Standards do to keep out illegal tobacco.”

Anyone with information to share about illegal tobacco is encouraged to phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.keep-it-out.co.uk.