SEVEN years since smoking was banned in pubs, new figures show more than one in five Cornwall smokers use illegal tobacco.
The figures, which show a total of 21.7 per cent of people in Cornwall use black market products, compared to a national average of 16 per cent, have been published to mark the launch of a campaign by Smokefree South West to stamp out illegal tobacco in the region.
The campaign, which includes radio and billboard advertising, starts today - seven years since smoke free legislation came into force on 1 July 2007.
The statistics, from the Tackling Illegal Tobacco for Better Health programme, show the number of people in Cornwall uncomfortable with illegal tobacco in their community has increased from 31% in 2010 to 41% in 2013. Eight out of ten (82%) of the people surveyed also felt that illegal tobacco was a danger to children.
The initiative to stamp out illegal tobacco, which is known to be a key route to young people taking up smoking and to bring criminals into communities, is being led by Smokefree South West alongside HMRC, Trading Standards, the Police, Crimestoppers, Cornwall Council and other local authorities across the region.
Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: "This is a serious problem and one that the Council is tackling on an ongoing basis. This campaign is about helping the public understand and help us by providing information that will help us target the criminals who damage our community and people’s health.
"Illegal tobacco is often sold at pocket money prices that encourage young people to take up smoking and make it easier for people to stay hooked on tobacco, so removing it from the market is key to protecting residents’ health."
Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said: "All tobacco is harmful, but illegal tobacco poses an additional threat to our children and communities, because it is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested in asking for proof of age.
"We are calling on members of the public to keep their eyes open and if they have any knowledge of illegal tobacco being sold then report it. Illegal tobacco can be most easily recognised if it’s cheap. An £8 packet for less than half the price, or a pack or pouch with foreign health warnings is illegal.
"Anyone who will sell that won’t ask questions about age, and might well have even more dangerous things to sell. If you see it, please report it, this isn’t about some ‘harmless bootlegging’, it’s about keeping criminals out of your neighbourhood and children and young people safe from harm and a potentially deadly habit."
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 or call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.