LESS illegal tobacco is being sold in the North East, health campaigners have revealed.
A survey carried out in 2009 and then again in 2011 showed that more than £36million has been saved across the region in duty and tax as sales of illegal tobacco have fallen.
The same survey showed that sales of the illegal goods had fallen by 39 per cent during the two year period.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, the campaign for a smoke-free North East said: “This shows that action is paying off to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco across international borders, along with work regionally and locally to close down suppliers and reduce demands on our estates.”
The illicit tobacco trade rose from below five per cent in the early 1990s to 20 per cent in 2000.
About 80 per cent of smuggled tobacco entering the UK during that initial period was made in Britain, exported and diverted to the black market, then brought back into the country.
Fresh said the drop in sales in the region was due to the work of the North of England Tackling Illegal Tobacco for Better Health programme, which combines the work of the NHS, HM Revenue and Customs, councils and police. As a result, less illegal tobacco is being bought and sold on via tab houses on estates.
Superintendent Derek Scott, of Sunderland Area Command, said: “The importation and sale of illegal tobacco is often linked to other forms of criminal activity and we work with our partners to target offenders and prevent offending of all types.
“This includes the evasion of revenue duty and breaches of trading standards legislation which are dealt with by the relevant public bodies.
“It is good to see that the figures continue to decrease and shows that the approach being adopted by both police and partners is having a positive effect upon this criminal activity.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, added: “The continuing fall in the illicit tobacco trade is good news for the British economy.’’
According to HM Revenue and Customs, in 2010 to 2011 an estimated nine per cent of cigarettes in the UK were illegal, compared to 11 per cent in 2009 to 2010.
Tax revenues for 2011 to 2012 brought £9.1million into the UK.
Anyone with information about illegal tobacco sales can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
Twitter: @Monica_ Turnbull