South Yorkshire illegal tobacco campaign

Member Article

Illegal tobacco industry targets children with cheap cigarettes

The reality of how cheap, illegal cigarettes made using slave labour are being sold in Sheffield to adults and children has been laid bare in a joint South Yorkshire initiative.

Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster councils have launched a joint campaign to highlight the fact some shopkeepers and street dealers are selling illegal cigarettes, often containing rat droppings and floor sweepings, to people – including young teenagers – for as little as £3.50 per packet.

Shoppers on Tudor Square were able to see a live reconstruction of the kind of filthy living conditions where illegally trafficked people, including children, are forced to make ‘fake’ cigarettes. Dealers and shopkeepers then sell them to smokers looking for cheap cigarettes. As the trade is illegal and unregulated, they sell their products to whoever will buy them, including young teenagers.

According to a survey into smoking habits commissioned by the three areas, in Sheffield more than half of people began smoking before the age of 16. As school pupils their lack of personal income makes them more likely to try very cheap illicit tobacco products.

The profits from these cigarettes can then help fund activities including terrorism in the Middle East and organised crime here in Britain.

According to a survey commissioned by Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham councils, almost a quarter of smokers across the three areas have used illicit tobacco – cheap, under the counter cigarettes – in the last 12 months.

Illicit and smuggled tobacco products are significantly cheaper than mainstream products because they avoid tax and have low manufacturing costs.

As a result they have a particular appeal for children and Dr Jeremy Wight, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council says the three authorities are determined to tackle the problem.

“These cheap or ‘fake’ cigarettes are extremely harmful to those who smoke them and our communities,” he said. “Smoking is well known to cause a number of serious health problems and all cigarettes contain over 4,000 toxins, but fake cigarettes can also contain animal excrement and floor sweepings.

“This danger is particularly relevant to young people, who are still growing and developing. Breathing in toxins from smoking can damage their lungs and lead to long-term illnesses - all tobacco is dangerous, can damage kids lives and lead to early death - one in two smokers die early because they smoked.”

“Children are buying and smoking these cigarettes and the proceeds go to fund terror groups abroad and organised drug dealing gangs here in Yorkshire. People need to consider that when they smoke, their money is being used to support terrorist organisations abroad and destroying families and childhoods here in the UK.

“We would encourage anyone who knows who is selling these illegal cigarettes or where they are being sold to visit or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and anonymously report it.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Dan Minchin .

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