Weed out illegal fag peddlers!

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A NEW crackdown has been launched against illegal tobacco sales in Wigan after they were strongly linked to youngsters’ taking up smoking.

New research has shown that the availability of black market tobacco is making it far too easy for children and young people to smoke.

Half of all cigarettes bought by 14 to 15-year-olds are illegal, a much higher percentage than the amount bought by adults. And the research by NEMS also shows that one in four young smokers regularly gets offered illegal tobacco, again far more than adults.

Dealers target children and young people by selling them single cigarettes, which makes it more affordable for them and gets them hooked so that they come back for more. Illegal tobacco is also linked to organised crime, so it helps fund drugs and weapon smuggling, child exploitation and money laundering.

As part of its ambition to make smoking history for children, campaign group Tobacco-Free Futures has launched a crusade to encourage communities to take action against the dealers. Keep It Out aims to raise awareness of illegal tobacco and the harmful effect it has on young people in the Wigan borough.

Coun Keith Cunliffe, Joint Chair of Wigan and Leigh Tobacco Control Alliance, said: “The rate of smoking related deaths in the Wigan borough was 283 people per 100,000 (over-35s) in 2007 to 2009.

“We need to work together in our communities to stop illegal cigarettes being sold to children so that they don’t become one of these terrible statistics in the future. If you know of anyone selling illegal tobacco, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”

Andrea Crossfield, Director of Tobacco-Free Futures said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s being sold in fag houses, shops, parks or by neighbours or family friends.

“Illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to get hold of cigarettes and helps to get them hooked into a deadly addiction to tobacco. Keep It Out is a way of letting concerned parents and community members know that they can take action and do something about this.”