FENLANDER: Campaign targets sale of illegal tobacco in Wisbech

CAMPAIGNERS took to the streets in Wisbech in a concerted effort to help stamp out the sale of illegal tobacco.

The trade poses a particular threat to children because it reduces prices to pocket money levels. It also hampers wider moves to reduce smoking, undermines legitimate businesses and fuels serious organised crime.

People are urged to report anyone selling cigarettes or hand-rolling tobacco at suspiciously low prices – often for as little as �2.50 for a pack of 20.

Fenland District Councillors Kit Owen and David Oliver joined representatives from Trading Standards, NHS Cambridgeshire and FDC’s environmental health team in the Market Place last Thursday. They distributed leaflets and discussed the issue with passers-by.

Illegal tobacco is anything sold here without any UK tax being paid on it. It can be the genuine product or counterfeit and some of it may contain particularly dangerous levels of toxins and carcinogens because its production has not been properly regulated.

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Wisbech has been identified as a “hot spot” for the trade in the East of England.

Cllr Owen said they had received a very encouraging response to the campaign. “Over the day we had 530 pledges of support,” he said. “Many people were particularly concerned about the sales to children and some were able to provide information on possible suppliers.

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“This has been passed on to the relevant enforcement agencies.”

Cllr Oliver said: “High prices are known to put people off smoking. The cheaper they are, the more people will buy them and selling them at dinner money prices is obviously particularly tempting for children or others who don’t have much money.

“The trade also hits the town’s legitimate shops that can’t compete with blackmarket prices. And it provides income to fund other criminal activity such as the sale of counterfeit alcohol, drugs and DVDs.”

• For more information visit www.no-illegal-tobacco.co.uk

• To report people selling illegal tobacco, call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111. Rewards of up to �1,000 are on offer if the information leads to one or more people being arrested and charged.

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