By Pamela McGowan Health reporter
Published at 12:01, Tuesday, 17 January 2012
A major clampdown on illicit tobacco has made a dent in sales across Cumbria, a new survey has shown.
Since 2009 a campaign has been underway to encourage organisations to tackle sales of illegal cigarettes and tobacco. Since then, the total volume being bought has dropped by 11 per cent across the north west, including Cumbria.
This equates to nearly 60 million fewer illegal cigarettes – and over £13m less in duty and VAT evasion as a result.
The latest survey also found that the total amount of all tobacco consumed has gone down by 15 per cent. In Cumbria the number of people likely to report traders selling tobacco to children has also increased.
The Illicit Tobacco: North of England Study 2011 analysed the attitudes and buying patterns of around 4,000 people across the north.
Further research by the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has presented positive findings about the impact of the North of England Tackling Illegal Tobacco for Better Health Programme, launched in 2009.
It has resulted in less illegal tobacco being bought and sold on estates, fewer people turning a blind eye and more action aimed at bringing sellers to justice.
The programme was a world first when it was launched, bringing together a wide range of organisations to work towards one goal.
The first survey was in 2009, then repeated in 2011, revealing that fewer people are now buying illegal tobacco and are more aware of the consequences.
In Cumbria specifically, it showed that the number of non-smokers who have come across illegal tobacco has fallen from 33 per cent to 25 per cent.
Meanwhile the likelihood of people reporting those who sell to children has increased from 76 per cent to 84 per cent. They include those who admit buying it themselves.
The likelihood that people will report sellers generally has also risen from 22 per cent to 33 per cent.
Finally, the number of people who feel very uncomfortable about illegal tobacco has increased from 42 per cent to 60 per cent, and those aware of the problem has gone up from 52 per cent to 68 per cent.
Su Sear, a public health partnership specialist at NHS Cumbria, said: “We know that illicit tobacco plays a big role in getting young people and children hooked on tobacco, as it is cheap and available.
“If we continue to tackle and remove this attraction then hopefully we can prevent more young people from