Illegal tobacco offered to a third of child smokers

Illegal tobacco offered to a third of child smokers

About a third of children who smoke have been offered illegal tobacco, new research has found.

The Action on Smoking and Health Wales (Ash) study comes as the charity launches a campaign to tackle the sale of illegal tobacco to children.

More than 1,000 11 to 16-year-olds in Wales took part in the survey – the biggest of its kind in the UK.

Suzanne Cass, of Ash, said about 80% of people who start smoking have their first cigarette before the age of 18.

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“This is an addiction of childhood so we need to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that these products do not get into the hands of children,” said Ms Cass.

The 32% of child smokers that had been offered illegal tobacco said it had been by friends, family, in educational settings or at shops.

About 25% said they had bought them.

Ash Wales, Trading Standards and the Welsh government have launched the NoIfs-NoButts website to encourage people to anonymously report illegal tobacco sales.

Illegal tobacco takes numerous forms including “cheap whites” – mass-produced cigarettes smuggled from one country to another – fakes designed to resemble famous brands or genuine products where no duty has been paid.

Roger Mapleson, Trading Standards’ lead on illegal tobacco in Wales, said there were a few signs to look out for to work out if tobacco is illegal.

“If somebody’s offering you cigarettes, at four, five, six pounds a packet for 20, then it’s illegal,” he said.

“The other indicators are from an examination of the packaging. You don’t need to be an expert to spot it… legitimate tobacco is now plain packed,” he added.

“If it looks like a pack of cigarettes that you’d have seen a few years ago, it’s illegal. If the health warnings on the packet are in a foreign language, it’s illegal.”

Reports gathered from the NoIfs-NoButts website have already led to raids across Wales.

Last month, a quarter of a million cigarettes and 20kg of rolling tobacco were seized in raids in north Wales.

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