Campaign aims to stub out illegal tobacco sales
19th March 2012
A campaign aimed at stubbing out the supply of illegal tobacco across Grampian will be launched in Aberdeen tomorrow [Tuesday, 20 March].
The joint initiative, between NHS Grampian, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council and Moray Council, will encourage businesses and communities to help each local authority’s Trading Standards team take action against illegal sellers.
Posters, leaflets and information cards will be distributed during the campaign and a telephone line, where reports can be made confidentially, will be publicised.
The project is supported by retailers and wholesalers across Grampian. Information will also be available at NHS Grampian clinics and doctor surgeries.
Aberdeen City Council Trading Standards Team Leader Graeme Paton said: “We are launching this campaign across the north-east of Scotland in response to information and complaints we have received concerning the illegal trade in tobacco.
"Since October 2011, it has been an offence in Scotland to sell tobacco without being registered with the Scottish Government as a tobacco business.
“The main objectives of our campaign are to determine the level of illegal sales and to prevent unfair competition in the city and throughout the north-east.
"Legitimate retailers comply with the law and are registered to sell tobacco with the Scottish Government. They sell genuine products and do all they can to avoid selling cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.
"Illegal sellers are known to undermine legitimate businesses and can face a fine of up to £20,000 and six months in jail if they are caught.
"We want to encourage people in the community to tell us about any such activity. If you know of someone who sells illegal tobacco from their home, workplace or shop, please let us know using the confidential telephone number.”
Aberdeenshire Council Trading Standards Manager Wilma Urquhart said: “We are keen to support this campaign and help eliminate supplies of illegal tobacco in the area.
"Counterfeit products have been found to contain far higher levels of nicotine and other cancer causing chemicals than genuine brands and we would urge anyone tempted to buy these to think again.
"As well as the increased risk to people’s health it is estimated this illegal trade costs the treasury £2.5 billion a year in lost revenue and of course harms the profits of legitimate traders.”
Derek Petrie, Tobacco Control Coordinator for NHS Grampian, said: “Tobacco smoking is the largest preventable cause of serious illness and early death in our community.
"Smoking related ill health and smoking related death are much more common in least well off communities. Regular smoking in children is also more common in deprived communities. People who have taken up smoking as children are much more likely to experience a life-long addiction and to die early as a result.
“Tax measures which keep the price of tobacco high are intended to make it more likely that young people and those living on low incomes will choose not to take up smoking. Cheap sales of illegal tobacco undermine this health policy and make it more likely that these vulnerable people will choose to smoke and be harmed as a result.
"This campaign against illegal tobacco sales will help close that gap in our battery of public health measures and improve the health of the most vulnerable.”
Stuart Wells, who owns Premier Stores in Aberdeen’s Crown Street, said he was “delighted” to support the campaign, and added: “Illegal tobacco affects retailers throughout the UK. It can cost jobs and can put small retailers out of businesses. I would urge people to call in and report anyone selling illegal tobacco.”
Similar campaigns in other parts of the UK have uncovered evidence of the illegal trade in tobacco. Last year  in South Ayrshire a similar campaign resulted in four reports being submitted to the Procurator Fiscal following the seizure of counterfeit tobacco. A survey of almost 14,000 young people by Trading Standards in the north-west of England found that half admitted buying illegal cigarettes and one in five were buying from street sellers, neighbours and even ice-cream vans.
Anyone with information about the sale or supply of illegal tobacco in Aberdeen or the wider Grampian region is encouraged to phone 01224 522433.
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