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London Tobacco Alliance welcomes new government strategy to combat illicit tobacco

The Government has announced new strategy to tackle illegal tobacco

The London Tobacco Alliance and its support programme, Stop Smoking London, welcome the Government’s announcement around the introduction of tougher enforcement to combat the sale of illicit tobacco.

Illegal tobacco is commonly available around London and exacerbates the negative health impacts of smoking amongst Londoners, as it is non-compliant with UK Safety and Consumer regulations.

The government’s new strategy, ‘Stubbing out the problem’, announced this week goes further than previous crack downs on illicit tobacco targeting loopholes at all stages of the supply chain.

The strategy:

  • sets out a new root and branch approach – which targets the demand for illicit trade (the consumers that criminals seek to exploit) as well as the supply (the criminals themselves)
  • is supported by over £100 million new funding over the next 5 years to boost HMRC and Border Force enforcement capability
  • establishes a new, cross-government Illicit Tobacco Taskforce – combining the operational, investigative and intelligence expertise of various agencies, enhancing their ability to disrupt organised crime [1]

This week has also seen the Government announce a package of measures to “stop the start” of new smokers. This new bill is set to make its way through Parliament and will include an historic new law to making it illegal in England to sell cigarettes to anyone born after 1st January 2009.

With over 800,000 smokers in London each year alone, smoking leads to almost 6,000 deaths. It is the leading driver of inequalities between the rich and the poor with 284,479 working age adults in London living in poverty when expenditure on tobacco is taken into account. The average smoker who smokes 10 cigarettes per day spends £2,500 on tobacco each year.[2]

Tracy Parr, Programme Director for the London Tobacco Alliance and Stop Smoking London, said:

“This legislation is needed to stop future generations becoming addicted to tobacco.  With every step we take towards a smokefree generation, we must continue our efforts to tackle the criminals seeking to undermine our progress.

“The illegal tobacco trade is linked to organised crime, drugs, trafficking, and the exploitation of vulnerable people. It also enables underage children to start smoking and prevents existing smokers from quitting a habit that kills two in three long term users.

“We recognise the scale of the problem across London and are working with colleagues in London Trading Standards to on a project to reduce the sale and use of illegal tobacco.

“The substances used in illicit tobacco aren’t known or regulated and could contain even higher levels of harmful chemicals than those found in regulated tobacco. By tackling the problem of illegal tobacco we will be contributing towards a safer and healthier London for all.”

David Hunt, Lead Officer for London Trading Standards in Illicit Tobacco & Alcohol, said:

“The Government’s strategy sets out a much tougher stance on tackling illegal tobacco, a step we very much welcome. The illicit trade involves a range of tobacco products that are sold illegally, often to underaged users, without paying taxes. It provides a cheap and unregulated supply of tobacco to those who might otherwise be deterred by cost.

“As always Trading Standards will play its part in tackling this problem, working with our partners in a united approach as outlined in this new strategy. Our Officers will continue to step in and take action against those who persistently flout the law that is designed to protect our communities from the harms of illegal tobacco.”

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