Local enforcement teams and their sniffer dogs will take to the streets of Portsmouth next week to ask for the public's help in tackling the sellers of illegal tobacco.
Illegal tobacco products are either cigarettes or hand rolling tobacco, shisha or bidis, which have been smuggled, bootlegged or are counterfeit. The illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime.
Recent research shows that 27% of Portsmouth smokers buy illicit tobacco, the second highest rate in the South East. In the UK, illegal tobacco makes up around 15% of the tobacco market with 28% of hand-rolled tobacco being illicit (HMRC 2016-17). It is sold by immoral shop owners and by individual dealers at houses and in the streets within the hearts of local communities.
Trading Standards officers from Portsmouth City Council will be joined by specially-trained tobacco detection dogs at the Illegal Tobacco Mobile Unit on the following dates:
- Thursday 25 July by Debenhams in Commercial Road
- Friday 26 July by Tesco Fratton
Come along between 10.00am and 4.00pm to meet the tobacco detection dogs and find out more about illegal tobacco and how it affects your community. The dogs will be demonstrating how they help officers sniff out thousands of pounds worth of illegal tobacco, which is often hidden behind fake walls or in unusual locations. One of the dogs, Scamp, won a Trading Standards Hero Award in London last month, for helping to detect over £6m of illegal tobacco in the last 5 years.
The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Information about where illegal tobacco is being sold often comes from members of the public so officers depend on vigilant residents to help them tackle this damaging activity. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02392 688777 anonymously.
Members of the Portsmouth Wellbeing Service will also be on hand on these two days to give advice to those wishing to quit smoking and to provide details of the free quit smoking support they offer across the city.
Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said; "All tobacco is harmful but illegal tobacco makes it easier for people to start smoking, particularly young people, and they tend to smoke more due to the cheaper prices. Sellers rarely care who they sell to and we know that the trade of illicit tobacco has links with other organised crime.
"To help us continue to reduce our smoking rate in the city, we need to take action against those selling illicit tobacco. Portsmouth residents can make a real difference to keeping it off the streets by reporting it. We need to keep the pressure up on those who continue to sell it.”