A London-wide campaign to educate residents about the dangers of smoking illicit tobacco and the importance of reporting it has been met with a mixed response from retailers.
The month-long awareness drive aims to improve public understanding of the different types of illegal tobacco and the consequences of supporting the trade, through a series of roadshows.
Specially trained tobacco sniffer dogs are being showcased to help encourage conversations with residents, and information is available on how to identify illegal tobacco and who to report concerns to.
Narendra Singh, of Jadeja’s Londis in Coppermill Lane, Waltham Forest, said while he was in favour of any campaign to address the problem of illegal trading, he questioned its effectiveness.
“It’s good to drive awareness, but will people actually report it? In my opinion, people are too busy keeping their heads down and getting on with their lives. More effort should go in to targeting rogue shopkeepers,” he said.
Likewise, Perry Thaker, of Charlotte Street News, said while he felt an education campaign around illicit trading was positive, there was little to stop the influx of cheap tobacco.
He said: “If I’m selling cigarettes at £10 and people can get them for £5, that’s what they’ll buy. The problem is people coming in from abroad with cheap tobacco. That’s where the focus needs to be.”
A spokesperson from London Trading Standards said: “The people who sell illegal tobacco bring criminality into our communities. Illegal tobacco revenue funds other criminality. The sale of tobacco at ‘pocket money prices’ encourages young people to smoke, with all the associated health issues.”
The campaign has been initiated and coordinated by public health professionals in London councils and contributed to by London Trading Standards. Around 15 local authorities have backed the campaign.