People in Swindon are being reminded about the dangers of illegal tobacco in the run-up to Christmas.
Swindon Borough Council’s Trading Standards, Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service and Swindon Stop Smoking Service are supporting the Smokefree South West Illegal Tobacco campaign, which is highlighting the serious consequences the trade has on health, crime, safety and communities.
The campaign’s clear message is that while illegal tobacco may appear to be a bargain, especially at Christmas, it is not a victimless crime.
Cllr Richard Hurley, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Housing and Streetsmart, said: “Illegal tobacco can cause serious damage to our neighbourhoods with criminals targeting vulnerable people who see it as a way of paying off debts by buying or smuggling cheap tobacco.
“People caught selling illegal tobacco face heavy fines or even jail and it is vitally important we raise awareness of this serious crime.”
Ian Jeary, Group Manager for Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Cigarettes are one of the main causes of domestic fire deaths in the UK.
"Counterfeit supplies have no regulation in the manufacturing process – not only have they been found to contain all sorts of unsavoury items, they are made differently and are therefore significantly more likely to burn right down to the butt.
“This makes them a greater fire risk than genuine cigarettes.
"Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Officers have recently been trained on illegal tobacco and can advise on the harm it causes to both individuals and communities.”
As a result of intelligence sharing, joint agency enforcement operations over the last year have resulted in the seizure of supplies of illegal tobacco by the Police, Trading Standards and HMRC.
Russell Sharland, Smokefree South West Illegal Tobacco Programme Manager, said: “We know that the illegal tobacco market in the UK has halved in the last decade and our collective multi-partnership efforts to tackle the issue continue to play a huge role regionally in reducing the trade.
“Cigarettes and pouches of tobacco are often sold at pocket money prices making it cheap and all too easy for our children to smoke and become addicted to tobacco.”
Cheap supplies can be cigarettes or hand rolled tobacco which are smuggled brands illegally brought into the UK, non-duty paid or counterfeit.
Tell-tale signs are the cheap price, a foreign language on the packaging, unfamiliar brands, printing errors on the packs, no health warnings or an unusual taste.
The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence.
Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk, call the charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.
The Swindon Stop Smoking Service is encouraging people to think about saving money by quitting smoking.
Last year Swindon Stop Smoking Service successfully supported 1,522 people to quit. There are over 200 trained stop smoking advisors in Swindon and more than 60 sites where people can access the service.
An advisor will also be available at the Christmas Safety Campaign event outside Debenhams in the town centre between 10am and 2pm on Saturday 14 December.
The Swindon Stop smoking Service is a free service which can improve smokers’ chances of remaining quit by fourfold.