London unites against illegal tobacco
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At least 20 London boroughs participated in this year’s London Illegal Tobacco Campaign. Now in its third year the campaign seeks to raise awareness about the harm caused by illegal tobacco and encourage members of the public to report anyone selling it.
London Councils – working with London Trading Standards, London Association of Directors of Public Health, the Mayor of London and PHE (London) Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Team – promoted the campaign to key stakeholders and the general public, alongside the crucial role played by individual London boroughs.
Roadshows and other awareness-raising activities to educate residents and businesses about the harms and risks of illegal tobacco took place. These focussed on why it’s important to report on premises that sell it and how to report it.
London boroughs have identified the sale and use of illegal tobacco as an issue they are keen to address with residents, particularly young people, as part of their public health responsibilities.
The aim of the roadshows was to raise awareness of the impact of illegal tobacco on local communities, to make it less socially acceptable to buy and sell these products, and increase reporting of it, ultimately reducing sale and distribution across London.
This year the campaign has also broadened its aims to target retailers who continue to sell it by raising the perception of risk of getting caught.
Telltale signs of illegal tobacco include:
- Packets with no picture health warnings
- Packets with foreign language health warnings
- Stock kept out of sight in retail shops and away from the regular tobacco display cabinet
- Much cheaper than normal cigarettes, for example £3.50 - £7.00 per pack of 20
- Unusual or foreign brand names, such as Jin Ling – or those from Russia and the Far East
- Availability in unusual locations, such as pubs, market stalls, ice cream or fast food vans and private homes (tab houses)
Local Trading Standards work across London to combat the supply of illegal tobacco.
It is a priority because the sale of duty evaded and counterfeit tobacco products undermines the health objectives of high taxation and labelling rules and steals business away from legitimate tobacco sellers.
There are also fire safety implications as illicit cigarettes do not comply with legal requirements designed to reduce the chances of un-attended lit cigarettes starting a fire.
National and regional levels of smoking and smoking related diseases continue to fall as a result of higher taxation, better education, support in quitting and laws limiting where people can smoke. However, across many parts of London smoking rates for routine and manual workers are consistently much higher than their general populations.
In summary cheap and readily available illegal tobacco keeps people smoking. Our work incudes:
- Receiving and sharing intelligence with partners about illegal tobacco suppliers
- Carrying out test purchasing and inspections
- Deploying specially trained tobacco sniffer dogs to find concealed products
- Working with local police and HM Revenue & Customs to seize illicit tobacco
- Enforcing labelling, fire safety and anti-counterfeiting legislation
- Carrying out educational campaigns to highlight the problems and promote reporting
Londoners can report suspicions over illegal tobacco products via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or online using the anonymous London Trading Standards reporting tool.