A WIGAN health expert has issued a stark warning on the risks of youngsters taking up smoking following a worrying counterfeit tobacco find.
Last month a borough chip shop was found to have been selling fake cigarettes to teenagers, for as little as 20p each if the youngsters could not afford a full pack.
Professor Kate Ardern, Wigan’s director of public health, said young people need to be aware of the dangers of addiction, whether it be from legal or illegal tobacco products.
She told the Evening Post: “It may be overlooked by youngsters but they are developing a nicotine addiction straightaway by smoking.
“And the health risks are not something that will affect them in later life, we’re talking about people in their 20s and 30s with cardiovascular disease and at greater risk of many forms of cancer.
“The added impact of illegal cigarettes is that we simply don’t know what other harmful chemicals are in there.
“We are making real progress with adult smoking rates in the borough, we want to support the next generation as well.”
Since 2012, council trading standards teams have recovered 145,000 illicit cigarettes and 105kg of illicit tobacco. Concerns have been voiced that through black market trading, these harmful products become more readily available to young people.
Earlier this year, staff at Good Frydays on Market Street, Atherton, sold counterfeit cigarettes to a 16-year-old working for the council’s trading standards team. Last month, owner John Chiu was fined £165 plus £487 costs.
Both local and national authorities have vowed to clampdown down on the illicit tobacco trade to make smoking less affordable.
Prof Ardern said: “It’s about protecting our children and young people from the harmful effects, both from illicit and legal cigarettes and smoking products. The case of the fake cigarettes sold for as little as 20p is very worrying.
“But alongside trading standards and Greater Manchester Police, a lot of progress is being made (on cracking down on illicit trade).”
Anyone who wishes to report illegal tobacco or any underage sales to Trading Standards in confidence can ring 01942 827476.