by Our RBG Correspondent | Woolwich
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has teamed up with five neighbouring boroughs in a new campaign to highlight the dangers of illegal tobacco.
|Kick It Out poster:|
“Keep It Out” is a local campaign launched this month by the South East London Illegal Tobacco Network, which is made up of six London boroughs (Southwark Council, Lambeth, Lewisham, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Bromley and Bexley).
South East London now has a page on the website www.keep-it-out.co.uk through which the public can report illegal activity anonymously. The site also gives information about the dangers of illegal tobacco and action taken by local councils and other agencies against suppliers of illegal tobacco.
Over the past three years, the South East London Illegal Tobacco Network has been working together to address illegal tobacco through both enforcement and education. The group has been involved in several high profile operations with HMRC that have led to arrests, prosecutions and the seizure substantial amounts of tobacco, cash and other assets. It has also introduced the routine use of specialist sniffer dogs to find hidden tobacco during enforcement work.
Illegal tobacco is a billion pound trade in the UK with HMRC estimating that around one in ten cigarettes smoked in the UK is smuggled or counterfeit. A recent survey commissioned by the network found that four in ten smokers had bought illegal tobacco in the last year. This implies that in excess of 114 million illegal cigarettes, with a street value of over £22 million, are being sold each year across the six SE London boroughs.
The dangers of illegal tobacco:
Health and illegal tobacco
> Illegal tobacco removes age restrictions and price pressure and has significant implications for the health and wellbeing of residents.
> Although smoking rates for the UK, England and London are falling, they remain stubbornly high in our more deprived communities in SE London and result in significant health inequalities.
Crime and illegal tobacco
> The link between illegal tobacco and large organised crime gangs is well proven
> Trading Standards teams in SE London have direct experience of how some gangs who trade in illegal tobacco also trade in fake alcohol and fake medicines
> Nationally there is evidence these gangs can also have links to serious organised crime including: people smuggling and prostitution
Illegal cigarettes and house fires
> While all cigarettes are a fire risk in the home, illegal cigarettes pose a particular risk as they do not comply with fire safety standards
|Kick It Out poster:|
Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald, the Royal Borough of Greenwich's Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Public Health, said: “Smoking remains an important public health issue for us, and our campaigns in Greenwich have successfully reduced the level of smoking in the borough. This makes it all the more important for us to tackle illegal tobacco as readily available cheap tobacco, sold without restrictions, encourages young people to start smoking and discourages current smokers from quitting.”
Councillor Jackie Smith, the Royal Borough of Greenwich's Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment, said: “It’s time that we stamp out illegal tobacco for good. People might be lured in by the cheap price tag, but it’s worth considering the great cost to your health, safety and community. Illegal tobacco supports other criminal activity and has many damaging effects on our local communities, as well as causing poor health."
|Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald:|
Cabinet Member for
and Public Health.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, London regional director for Public Health England, said: “Tobacco remains a high priority for PHE as half of all long-term smokers will die due to a smoking related illness. Although smoking rates for the UK, England and London have continued to fall, deep inequalities persist, with much higher prevalence among routine and manual workers’ groups."
“While availability is declining nationally, illegal tobacco undermines local efforts to reduce smoking rates and prevent young people from starting smoking. We welcome this joined up approach to tobacco control that the SE London group are spearheading and have been working closely with them to identify any lessons that can be shared more widely.”
Hazel Cheeseman, from the campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, said: “High tobacco prices help people to give up smoking. Cut price, illegal tobacco undermines this and leads to criminal networks with no compunctions about selling to children. Tackling the harm from smoking must include proper joined up strategies across local areas that will drive illegal tobacco out of our communities.”
Simon Tuhill, London Fire Service, said: “Last year in London there were 566 residential fires and nine fatalities caused by the careless disposal of cigarettes. Illegal cigarettes are deadly as they're unlikely to conform with fire safety standards. Our message to Londoners on illegal tobacco is Keep It Out of your community.”