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Fears St Helens children are being targeted by illegal tobacco traders
4:50pm Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
ILLEGAL tobacco traders are believed to be making street sales to teenage customers during the summer holidays.
Watchdogs are warning that “unscrupulous dealers” are targeting youngsters who are away from school.
And they are urging parents to contact Crimestoppers if they are aware where smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco are being sold.
The appeal for information comes from Tobacco Free Futures following work to successfully reduce the size of the illegal tobacco market in the North West.
St Helens Council Trading Standards Service work has worked to tackle its supply over the past four years.
In the last two years, together with Merseyside Police, they have seized more than 20,000 illegal cigarettes and 20kg of rolling tobacco.
Figures in 2011 suggested 17.5 per cent of tobacco in circulation across St Helens is illegal, putting the town at the top of a regional hall of shame.
But watchdogs have been working to reduce that – doping undercover checks to test whether retailers are selling tobacco to children.
Results show a continuing drop in shops making the sales but campaigners say it is vital they make a similar impact on the supply of illicit tobacco from other places.
Investigations, regionally, have found youngsters easily get hold of cut-price, smuggled, or even fake cigarettes under-the-counter from sunbed salons, ice-cream vans and so-called ‘tab’ houses.
With figures suggesting 80 per cent of smokers are addicted before they turn 18, there are concerns children become addicted to smoking because they get cheap access to the blackmarket cigs.
Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods, believes the illegal sales are often known about in communities.
He said: “The people who are selling counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes and tobacco do not care if children buy it from them, so it is important that residents play their part in stopping this irresponsibly behaviour affecting children in the borough.”
Andrea Crossfield, director of Tobacco Free Futures, said: “During the school holidays, children will be out and about with friends and we need to ensure illegal tobacco sellers aren’t able to turn this into a business opportunity.
“All smoking kills but illegal tobacco is an easy source of tobacco to get children hooked on an addiction that kills half of all smokers.
“We need continued pressure on the sellers to stop them getting kids hooked and destroying people’s health.”
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