Detection dogs are being recruited to help people understand the dangers posed by the trade in illegal tobacco in County Durham.
As part of the County Durham Tobacco Control Alliance, Durham County Council’s trading standards team has joined up with B.W.Y Canine to host a roadshow aiming to raise awareness of illegal tobacco being sold across the county.
Illegal tobacco is tobacco that has been smuggled into the UK, ‘bootlegged’ (duty free) or counterfeit (fake).
The sale and use of illegal tobacco is seen as a blight on the streets of the North of England, especially in County Durham with 79 per cent of the public welcoming a clampdown on it.
With 456,320 illicit cigarettes and 28.15kg of rolling tobacco totalling a combined £84,000 being seized by the council’s trading standards team since April 1 of last year, the events will showcase the impact of the illegal produce on the community as well as the individuals that smoke it.
The three events will demonstrate the dogs’ sniffing skills whilst officers will be educating local people, raising awareness and gathering intelligence on illegal tobacco in the area.
The roadshow will be making stops across the county calling at:
• Bishop Auckland Market Place – Wednesday 20 April
• Stanley Market – Thursday 21 April
• Castlegate Shopping Centre, Peterlee – Friday 22 April.
Each will run from 9.30am to 4pm.
Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said of the roadshow: “We are continuing our work to rid the supply of illicit tobacco at all levels of the supply chain.
“The use of tobacco dogs makes it easy for us to search premises quickly and these roadshows give people the chance to see them in action, whilst learning how harmful this crime can be to communities.
“We and our partners in County Durham Tobacco Control Alliance are committed to breaking the cycle of addiction and exposure to tobacco in every community.
“People found guilty of supplying counterfeit tobacco can face up to 10 years in jail, unlimited fines and a chance of their assets being seized via proceeds of crime action.
“We will continue to seek the harshest penalties against those who persist in committing these crimes.”
Cllr Lucy Hovvels, portfolio holder for adult and health services, said: “Illegal tobacco is harming local communities across County Durham – it is not a victimless crime and often has links to wider criminal activity.
“Its low price and availability encourages people to keep smoking, and children and young people are often targeted by unscrupulous traders.
“We are determined to stop the supply of illegal tobacco, which makes it too easy for a new generation to get hooked on smoking and even harder for people to quit and remain smoke free.”
Anyone with any information about illegal tobacco can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 111 555.