Detection dogs pound the streets of Torbay to ask local residents to sniff out illegal tobacco

Illegal Tobacco campaign ‘Keep It Out’ raising awareness in Torbay Local enforcement teams and their sniffer dogs will take to the streets of Torbay next week to ask for the public’s help in tackling the sellers of illegal tobacco.

Illegal tobacco is known to make it easier for children to start smoking, as it is sold at cheap prices, and is also known to make communities more attractive to criminals, who can have links to organised crime.

Trading Standards officers from Torbay Council, supported by Smokefree South West, will be joined by specially-trained tobacco detection dogs – Scamp, Phoebe and Yoyo, at the Illegal Tobacco Mobile Unit at Lower Union Street, Torquay on Tuesday 20 October from 10am until 4pm.

The ‘Keep it Out’ campaign has been running for five years and aims to help the public know what illegal tobacco looks like, what the dangers are, and encourages them to keep their eyes open and report illegal tobacco being sold in their neighbourhood.

Since the campaign first launched, the number of smokers buying illegal tobacco in the South West has fallen by more than a fifth (20%) in just three years, from 20% of smokers in 2010, to 16% in 2013.

A recent survey shows that the public are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of illegal tobacco. 70% of adults in Torbay agree that illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to smoke, whilst 53% agree that it encourages gang crime and anti-social behaviour. 50% agree that it brings crime in to local communities.

Deputy Mayor and Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Derek Mills, said: “Illegal tobacco is an incredibly important issue for any local community. The sale of such products puts our children at risk and increases the chances of them becoming involved with individuals who not only deal in tobacco ,but may sell drugs and alcohol illegally too.”

Andrea Dickens, deputy director of Smokefree South West, said: “If you see it, please report it, this isn’t about some ‘harmless bootlegging’, it’s about keeping criminals out of your neighbourhood and children and young people safe from harm and a potentially deadly habit.

“There is a lot of work being done across the region to tackle illegal tobacco but we need the public support to help us. Please tell us about where illegal tobacco is being sold, either in person at our mobile illegal tobacco unit, go online or via our hotline.”

The sale of illegal tobacco is a criminal offence. Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can report anonymously online to Trading Standards at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or call the Illegal Tobacco Hotline (operated by the Tackling Illegal Tobacco for Better Health Partnership) on 0300 999 0000.  They cannot trace your call and will never ask for your name.

The South West campaign is part of the wider Tackling Illegal Tobacco Programme which draws together local authorities in the South West with HMRC, Trading Standards, police forces, Scambusters, Crimestoppers and other key partners to tackle this issue.

For further information please contact: Enya Monaghan, Communications Support on 01803 208850.