Illegal tobacco and why it is so dangerous…

From Devon County Council:


Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is visiting Green Lanes Shopping Centre in Barnstaple on Thursday 30 August between 10am and 5pm to let residents know about the real harm caused by illegal tobacco and how residents can help to prevent its supply.

The event is part of the national ‘Report it – Illegal Tobacco: No ifs, No butts’ campaign, which aims to tackle the issue of illegal tobacco in the UK.

Officers from Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service will be on hand with examples of illegal tobacco and to let people know how they can identify it so they can report it and help prevent it harming their community.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the trading standards service, explains why illegal tobacco

Cllr Rufus Gilbert

Cllr Rufus Gilbert

is so dangerous:

“Many people think that buying cheap tobacco and cigarettes is a victimless crime, but it is not.
Smoking remains one of the UK’s biggest causes of premature death, and the availability of illegal tobacco, sold at considerably below the price of legal product, makes it much harder for people to give up and remain smoke free.
Illegal tobacco is sold in Devon at pocket money prices, making it easier for children and young people to buy, start smoking and develop a habit, especially as the criminals selling it are not interested in who they sell it to.
It can also be a gateway for young people into wider criminal activity and addiction. They are often the ones to visit private addresses to buy cigarettes, which puts them into risky situations with people who might also be selling alcohol, drugs and stolen goods.”
The illegal tobacco trade has strong links with organised crime and criminal gangs, with many of the people smuggling, distributing and selling it involved in drug dealing, money laundering, people trafficking and even terrorism.
Steve Gardiner, Interventions Manager at Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, stresses the important role that the public can play in reporting suspicious activity:

“It is important to remember that selling illegal tobacco is a crime.
“We are determined to crack down on the sale and supply of illegal tobacco and we have been working hard across the region.

“Although a lot has been achieved, illegal tobacco is still a problem and we need our residents to help us.
“Fewer people are now buying illegal tobacco, which is excellent. And plenty more people over the past few years have decided enough is enough and are providing information to stop local criminals selling and distributing illegal tobacco.
“People can make a real difference to help keep more illegal tobacco off the streets by reporting it. Our officers routinely act on intelligence and the valuable information we receive can significantly aid our investigations.
“This event will help the public know what illegal tobacco looks like, what the dangers are and encourage them to keep their eyes open and report those involved in selling illegal tobacco in their neighbourhood.
“We need to keep the pressure up on those who continue to sell it. We will not tolerate the illegal sales of tobacco and will continue to take firm action to stop this type of activity by using our enforcement powers against those we catch.”

Illegal tobacco can sometimes be hard to spot. Things to look out for include:
•          Price less than half the usual retail price
•          Missing “UK Duty Paid” stamp
•          No health warning
•          Foreign language on packs – specifically the health warning
•          Printing errors on the pack
•          Unusual taste and smell.

Selling illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone can report the selling of illegal tobacco by contacting on the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506 who will report the matter to Trading Standards, reporting it anonymously online at or  calling the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.
Follow the South West Illegal Tobacco campaign on Facebook to keep up to date with the regional Trading Standards Investigation Team –
For support to stop smoking in Devon, contact the OneSmallStep service on 01392 908139 or 0800 2982654. Alternatively, you can visit their website.

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