THREE people have been arrested in connection with supplying illicit tobacco following a raid on a property in Peterlee.
Durham County Council Trading Standards and Durham Constabulary found 224 pouches of rolling tobacco and 2,120 cigarettes believed to have been smuggled or counterfeit when they searched the property and a number of vehicles.
Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “We will continue to work with our partners to get rid of illicit tobacco suppliers in County Durham.
“The sale of illegal cigarettes sidesteps the controls that lawful businesses have in place to uphold age of sale laws and undermines the work of the stop smoking services. It also encourages a whole new generation of young smokers and leaving little incentive or motivation for people to quit.
“The message to those involved in this illicit trade is loud and clear. Stop supplying illicit tobacco or face the consequences.”
A recent survey found that 14 to 15-year-old smokers consume an average of six cigarettes a day.
The same survey showed that 30 per cent of young smokers bought illicit tobacco and almost a third had been offered illicit tobacco in the street – more than twice the adult rate.
Councillor Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We know from the amount of intelligence received through crimestoppers that people do not want this criminal activity taking place in their neighbourhood and there are particular concerns when it is reported that young people are able to access tobacco from such sources.
“Stemming the illicit trade is a key part of the Tobacco Control Strategy, which aims to reduce the prevalence of smoking in County Durham.”
Information about illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.