West Yorkshire Trading Standards inspected a number of premises across Leeds in partnership with West Yorkshire Police officers from Leeds East, Immigration, Leeds City Council Private Sector Housing Team and Leeds City Council Entertainment Licensing. The partners were supported by specialist tobacco detection dogs from Wagtail UK. These inspections resulted in more than 210,000 illegal cigarettes and almost 10kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco being seized. The operation was part of the activities around Stoptober, encouraging people to give up smoking.
Stoptober is the 28-day national stop smoking challenge. Stopping smoking for 28 days means you are five times more likely to stop for good. Last year thousands of people successfully quit. Since its launch, over 1 million people have used Stoptober to quit smoking.
The Tackling Illicit Tobacco for Better Health Programme which is funded by the five Public Health authorities in West Yorkshire, is helping people to stop tobacco use for good by educating the public and by investigating traders who supply cheap and illicit tobacco. The programme utilises marketing campaigns and multi-agency enforcement in order to tackle the problems of the illicit trade.
Illegal Tobacco trading creates a cheap source for children and young people to start smoking. This severely impacts genuine businesses by undercutting them. It is also linked to organised crime and contributes to an underground economy worth billions of pounds. Victims of human trafficking are often being forced to sell illegal products in order to pay off debts, or fear harm to themselves or their families if they do not do what is asked of them. Previously, employees have been stuck in a cold run down room above the business, they are required to pass tobacco products in to the shop using a chute, for little or no money.
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said, “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal trade in tobacco costs government millions each year in lost revenue, makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime. Members of the public should recognise the adverse health, economic and social impacts of the illicit trade of tobacco products, including the linkages with human trafficking and a wide range of organised crimes.”
Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Governance and Audit Sub-Committee, which oversees the work of Trading Standards, said, “The illegal sale of tobacco in communities enables and encourages young children to buy it cheaply. It is really great that so many partners are working to tackle traders that break the law. I would like to thank members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so. This will reduce the harm caused by tobacco in our communities and stop the exploitation of people who are trafficked. The people making money out of this do not care who they sell to.”
If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illegal tobacco please contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000 and the dedicated team at West Yorkshire Trading Standards will carry out an inspection.
More information about the campaign can be found on the NHS website and anyone wanting help to quit can find their local Stop Smoking Service at
NOTES TO EDITOR
For further information please contact:
Ian Newbury, Tobacco Control Lead Officer
Images are of the seized illegal tobacco