Campaign launched to tackle illegal cigarette sales in Sunderland

People in Sunderland are being urged to help shut down criminals dealing illegally in tobacco as new figures show “tab houses” and shops are the main way children get cigarettes.
An illegal cigarette seizureAn illegal cigarette seizure
An illegal cigarette seizure

Trading standards teams and anti-smoking campaigners are hoping for new information from the public as the region’s Keep It Out campaign re-launches for the summer.

Since 2017 the campaign has resulted in over 1,900 tip offs in the North East – leading to seizures, court action and shops facing closure orders and fines.

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Illegal cigarettes and tobacco includes cheap foreign brands and smuggled genuine tobacco and people are being asked to anonymously report “tab houses” and shops selling illegal tobacco products and to under age customers by going to visit

Ailsa RutterAilsa Rutter
Ailsa Rutter

A new survey has found that:

*Seven in 10 children buy tobacco with “tab houses” and shops.

*15 people die each day in the North East from avoidable smoking related illness.

*Around 128 million illegal cigarettes are bought in the region each year – an annual duty loss of some £55m.

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*More than eight out of 10 buyers of illegal tobacco say it helps them to smoke.

Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking group Fresh, said: “Cheap, illegal tobacco keeps smokers smoking, gets kids hooked and compounds health. inequalities. Dealers are linked to criminality and do not care if local children buy it.

“Tackling illegal tobacco is vital to make smoking history for future generations and help reduce the misery of smoking-caused diseases such as lung cancer or COPD in local communities.”

Cllr Claire Rowntree, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “All tobacco kills, but the sale of illegal tobacco is often connected to other criminal activity like drug smuggling and people trafficking.

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"Our Trading Standards officers are working to reduce the supply of illicit tobacco in the city and Sunderland City Council will not tolerate the selling of illegal tobacco in our city and any person identified as supplying illegal cigarettes can expect to have enforcement action taken against them.

"We would also actively encourage anyone with information about suppliers of illegal tobacco to report it at”