RESIDENTS are being asked to help keep kids safe and smoke-free by reporting illegal tobacco sales, often from ‘under the counter’ in local shops, so police can get the products off the streets.

While less adult adult smokers now buy illegal tobacco (20 per cent in 2018 compared to 16 per cent in 2021), more 15 year olds have been offered illegal tobacco (up from 10 per cent in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2021).

These figures come from a Greater Manchester and Social Care Partnership survey which has tracked the size and scale of illegal tobacco after its introduction of a Making Smoking History strategy in 2018.

Greater Manchester Illicit Tobacco data coincides with the new Keep It Out campaign across the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs in collaboration with Local Authority Trading Standards and enforcement partners.

The campaign is part of a multi-agency programme to reduce supply and demand of illegal tobacco and encourage reports of sales, as it is linked to organised crime, including drug dealing, trafficking, and exploitation of vulnerable people.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the Keep It Out campaign generated 28 reports of illegal tobacco sales in Bury, leading to raids, shop closures and fines.

Overall, the size of the UK illicit tobacco market has reduced in the last decade, but remains an issue as it involves children with organised crime and gangs.

Making Smoking History Lead at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Andrea Crossfield, said: “The crackdown on illegal tobacco is part of Greater Manchester’s wider efforts to cut smoking rates and make smoking history for future generations.

“While it is encouraging to see fewer adults trying and buying illegal tobacco, it is worrying to see so many young people being offered it.”

“All tobacco kills, but people who sell illegal tobacco to kids, getting them hooked on a lethal addiction and cheaper prices undermine smokers’ quit attempts.

“Whether legal or illegal, all tobacco contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals which will kill one in two long term smokers.

“It’s not just about the impact on our health though, the illegal tobacco market is fuelled y organised crime groups and that’s why we’re raising awareness of the harm it brings to our neighbourhoods too, and encouraging people to report illegal sales to keep our kids safe and smoke-free.”