Counting the cost of illegally imported tobacco in city
SMOKERS who roll their own cigarettes are continuing to buy illegal tobacco as a cheaper option, a city chief has said.
It was recently estimated by Plymouth City Council that people in the city spend up to £25,000 every day on illegal tobacco, creating a cheap source for children and adults who would not otherwise be able to afford to smoke.
Meanwhile around 33 per cent of hand-rolled tobacco smokers by illegal tobacco regularly.
And as local environmental health officers continue the fight to cut down on contraband and counterfeit tobacco, they are keen to point out the dangers of the illegal sort.
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Chris Brennan, head of trading standards, said: "Everywhere has a problem with illegal tobacco, not just Plymouth, because in the UK legal tobacco is very expensive and illegal tobacco is at least half price, possibly even less.
"But generally society recognises that legal tobacco is expensive because it is designed to encourage people not to smoke because it's so dangerous. And we need to keep tobacco at a high cost for that reason.
"We have a 14 year life expectancy gap between the poorest and wealthiest parts of the city and the reason for that is basically down to smoking. The single biggest thing we can do to reduce the health inequality is to tackle smoking."
Illegal tobacco is broken into two different categories – contraband tobacco, which is made by reputable companies for a different market and smuggled into the UK; and counterfeit tobacco, which is "made God knows where", said Mr Brennan.
Councillor Brian Vincent, cabinet member for the environment, said: "If we can stamp out and reduce the opportunities for people to purchase illegal tobacco then those people will have to reduce their smoking or quit.
"Our driving force is getting the smokers who buy illegal tobacco to stop altogether.
"Our other concern is that cheap illegal tobacco encourages younger people to start smoking in the first place.
"The main difference between illegal and legal tobacco is that illegal tobacco encourages people to smoke more too, because it's cheaper.
"It's a big problem because there is then less money going to the Treasurer but a bigger burden on the NHS and families too because of the damaging health effects brought about by smoking.
"It's a drain on society and effects everyone."