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Hundreds of tip offs about illegal tobacco



Hundreds of people have come forward with tip offs to tackle the sale of illegal tobacco since the launch of a new campaign.


Since Fresh launched Keep it Out in the North East in November, local authority trading standards teams have received over 350 anonymous pieces of information about illegal tobacco sales and dealers.


The campaign, to help the public report illegal tobacco and discourage smokers from buying it, was first launched in the North East and has subsequently been rolled out in West Yorkshire.


Keep It Out highlights how illegal tobacco gets children hooked on smoking and brings crime into local communities. It featured radio adverts, a leaflet drop to 360,000 North East households, posters and flyers for local communities, beermats for pubs and a guide for retailers. Anyone with information can report it anonymously at or call the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 000.


6/10 people who saw the campaign felt more concerned about illegal tobacco in their community, 4/10 said they'd be less likely to buy it and more likely to report local sales, and 3/10 said they thought it would make illegal tobacco dealers think twice.


Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "We are delighted to see this campaign making people think twice about buying and selling illegal tobacco, and to see hundreds of pieces of information coming through. We know most people do not want illegal tobacco in their local community.


"We worked with Trading Standards colleagues and with smokers all over the North of England to develop the campaign, explore people's understanding of the issues and find out what concerns members of the public the most about illegal tobacco sales.


"All tobacco – legal and illegal - kills one in two smokers and nobody wants their child to start smoking. The best way to reduce illegal tobacco on our streets is through concerted efforts to reduce smoking."


In 2013 the Public Accounts Committee accused the tobacco industry of fuelling the illegal tobacco trade by oversupplying low tax countries with smuggling routes into Britain. A further investigation published in June 2018 by the University of Bath claims that the tobacco industry is still fuelling tobacco smuggling and is seeking to undermine the global Illicit Trade Protocol.


Durham County Council's Trading Standards Team have supported the Keep it Out Campaign to tackle the supply of illicit tobacco.


Durham Trading Standards have received over 50 pieces of intelligence relating to suspicions of illegal tobacco sales. Operations have then taken place resulting in four raids so far and the seizure of 110,000 illicit cigarettes and 115 Kg of hand rolling tobacco. This has led to ongoing investigations, which will be put before the courts.


Recent successful prosecutions have resulted in the following sentences being handed out by the courts:

  • Four family members, from Seaham have been jailed for a total of 5 years and 2 months. 
  • A shop in Seaham was the subject of a closure order following the sale and subsequent seizure of counterfeit and illegal tobacco. The alcohol licence was then surrendered and the shop ownership changed hands.
  • Another case involving a seller from Spennymoor has resulted in an 18 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years and 200 hours of unpaid community work.


Owen Cleugh, Consumer Protection Manager' with Durham County Council said "Illegal tobacco has a serious impact as it makes it easier for children to smoke and brings crime into our communities. "We are committed to cracking down on illegal tobacco and will continue to investigate anyone breaking the law.


"We would encourage any members of the public to help us in tackling this crime and report any concerns via the Keep It Out Hotline."