Dangerous illegal cigarettes are rife in Portsmouth according to new report

DANGEROUS high-strength cigarrettes illegally imported into the country are rife in the city, a new report has warned.

Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 3:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 5:15 pm
Illiegal tobacco products seized from DLight Mini Mart in 2018

Smokers in Portsmouth are twice as likely to use illicit tobacco than others in the south of England, sparking fresh concerns about the city’s cigarette trade.

A new report shows that 27 per cent of smokers are at risk from tobacco that is illegally imported and potentially containing more dangerous additives than standard products.

This is almost double the south east average of 14 per cent.

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Illiegal tobacco products seized from DLight Mini Mart in 2018

For Portsmouth City Council’s head of health, Councillor Matthew Winnington, this was a concern. He said: ‘People selling illicit tobacco are making it easier for people to start smoking, particularly young people, and making it easier for these people to smoke a greater amount due to the cheaper prices.

‘We also know that the trade of illicit tobacco has links with other organised crime. Areas with levels of higher deprivation are more likely to see increased illicit tobacco.’

Director of public health in Portsmouth, Dr Jason Horsley, said in the report: ‘Ingredients of illicit tobacco products are not known or regulated and therefore may pose further harms to health.

‘The illegal trade undermines efforts to reduce smoking and reduces effectiveness of tobacco control measures – illicit tobacco products are cheaper partly because taxation is avoided and age restrictions are not adhered to.’

Illegal tobacco can take many forms including white cigarettes, which have no legal market in the UK, counterfeit cigarettes that are illegally manufactured and sold, and genuine cigarettes, which are smuggled into the UK without duty paid.

Since 2014 Public Health have funded a post to work within Trading Standards at the council to tackle illicit alcohol and illicit tobacco including related products such as  e-cigarettes. Funding for this role has been agreed for 2019/20.

Cllr Winnington added: ‘We’re determined to tackle illicit tobacco and fund a post, which is solely responsible for this. We work closely with other local authorities and the police to share intelligence and do regular awareness days to ensure residents understand the dangers of illicit tobacco. These are effective in gathering intel on places and people selling illicit tobacco.

‘This all connects into our wider work to reduce smoking in the city, which has seen the rate drastically drop so that we’re in line with the England average.

‘We’re still looking to do more though, particularly with pregnant women and those who work in manual jobs as these groups are still smoking at a higher rate than the national average.’

Last year the store DLight Mini Mart in Elm Grove was shut down after sniffer dogs found almost 15,000 illegal cigarettes and 13.5kg of illegal hand-rolling tobacco there.

Smoking in Portsmouth is also more prevalent than the rest of the country. In 2017 14.9 per cent of adults in England were smokers, compared to 15.2 per cent in the city.