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Information floods in on illegal tobacco sales following Keep It Out campaign

Trading Standards have received hundreds of pieces of information on where illegal tobacco is being sold following a campaign aimed at protecting kids from smoking.


Information about sales from places like private homes, pubs and shops has been flooding in since Fresh ran the Keep It Out campaign during January and February, supported by local authority trading standards teams.


The campaign generates intelligence for trading standards, police and HMRC to take action against dealers in local communities and highlights the problems that illegal tobacco causes in getting more kids hooked.


Since 2017, over 5,000 pieces of information have been shared nationally with Trading Standards.  274 pieces of information relating to the North East were shared in January and February this year alone, which were record months for the campaign. 


Trading Standards in the North East have been using anonymous tip-offs to build information on local sales and take enforcement action.  Around 25,000 people have visited the campaign website at


The ongoing campaign is part of broader efforts to reduce the smoking rate in the North East of England.  16% of adults in the North East currently smoke.  The Government has announced an ambition to make smoking obsolete by 2030 and Fresh is urging decision makers to take action to end smoking across all groups and reduce health inequalities.


The figures come ahead of the expected Budget on 11th March.  Fresh is one of 24 organisations that have signed up to a submission from Action on Smoking and Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies to Her Majesty's Treasury calling for tax measures to be strengthened to encourage quitting and prevent young people from starting to smoke; stronger efforts to reduce the illegal trade in tobacco products including a tobacco licensing system, and the introduction of a 'polluter pays' charge on the tobacco manufacturers to fund the cost of ending smoking (1). 


Part of the funds would be used to enhance the work of Trading Standards teams and to deliver effective public education media campaigns.  There is already strong public support for the government to do more to tackle smoking, which costs the North East £625.7 million every year (2).


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "Nobody wants children to smoke.  But there are people out there who will sell illegal tobacco to anyone, regardless of their age.  We've had reports of people selling to children even when they're in school uniform. 


"Most people now see illegal tobacco sales as a danger to kids and they don't want it taking place in their neighbourhoods.  That's why we've seen hundreds of intelligence reports coming in, just in the last month, with people giving information on where it's being sold.


"Tackling these sales is part of our efforts to help make smoking history for future generations.  15 people a day die from smoking in the North East and that is whether they smoke legal or illegal tobacco.  High tobacco prices reduce smoking rates, especially among children, and illegal tobacco undermines all of this.


"The Government has said it wants to make smoking obsolete by 2030 and that's why we're calling on them now to introduce new measures that will help people in the North East avoid losing loved ones to smoking."


Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health at Newcastle City Council and the North East tobacco lead at the Association of Directors of Public Health said: "Tobacco is the leading, readily preventable cause of health inequalities so it is vital to make sure smokers are encouraged and supported to quit, and that young people don't start in the first place.  Addressing illegal tobacco sales is an essential part of our wider, successful strategy to keep reducing smoking rates in the North East.


"Campaigns like this are important in raising awareness, reducing comfort with illegal sales and in giving people practical ways to report where those sales are taking place.  This allows our local Trading Standards teams to take the action and prevent young people from getting hold of deadly, addictive products."


All people need to do to anonymously report illegal tobacco sales is visit or call 0300 999 0000.  The information will be sent to Trading Standards and treated in complete confidence.