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Illegal tobacco – appeal to the public to Keep it Out

People in the North East are being asked to help keep illegal tobacco out of their local community and stop more children taking up a lethal addiction.

Smoking is still the North East’s biggest killer with two in three lifelong smokers dying from smoking – and criminals in the region are getting children hooked to this lethal addiction by selling and supplying illegal tobacco.

The Keep It Out campaign is urging people across the North East to report and inform on anyone selling illegal tobacco – whether from shops or homes, pubs or clubs. The campaign launches again on March 25.

 Visit to report local illegal sales in full anonymity. Thousands of people in the region have given information on local sellers, leading to seizures, court action and shops facing closure orders and huge fines.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: “Smoking is a lethal addiction which leads to so many awful illnesses and preventable deaths of loved ones – and illegal tobacco is helping to get more North East children hooked.

“The people who supply illegal tobacco are fuelling a trade which causes 16 types of cancer and kills thousands of people every year. Illegal tobacco is not the only way children can get hooked on smoking but it is one clear way.

“Over 117,000 people in the North East have died from smoking since the year 2000. Let’s be clear – all tobacco kills, but keeping illegal tobacco out of our communities is an important part of efforts to make smoking history for more families in the North East.”

Judith Hedgley, Head of Public Protection for Middlesbrough Council and Chair of the North East Public Protection Partnership said: “Tobacco isn’t like any other consumer product. It kills two in three lifelong users and tackling breaches of tobacco laws is one of our top enforcement priorities.

“The seriousness of illegal tobacco should never be underplayed. Organised crime gangs control its supply – the same people who try and flood our streets with drugs and have links to violence, intimidation, weapons, child exploitation and people trafficking.

“We can’t allow children and young people to be exposed to these gangs and their criminal way of life.

“Thankfully, fewer people are now turning a blind eye to this illegal trade. Quite rightly they don’t want children to smoke and won’t tolerate criminals wreaking havoc in local communities.

“Acting on information from the public we can close down shops, call for alcohol licences to be reviewed and now work with HMRC to issue fines of up to £10,000. We will also seize and destroy tobacco products and strip retailers of the ability to buy and sell tobacco. We’re also pursuing people who sell it online or from pubs, clubs and homes.”

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