A new campaign highlighting the dangers of using illegal cigarettes has been launched in Sheffield – amid warnings from the city’s public health chief that the fake goods are used to fund organised crime and terrorism.
Councils in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster have teamed up for a drive to tackle the sale of illegal cigarettes, after a survey carried out by the three authorities found nearly a quarter of local smokers had used illicit tobacco in the past year.
Fake cigarettes avoid tax and have low manufacturing costs – meaning they can be sold for as little as £3.50 a packet, making them particularly appealing to young people.
Samples from the products have been found to contain rat droppings and floor sweepings, and the proceeds are known to have funded terrorism in the Middle East and organised crime in the UK.
Dr Jeremy Wight, director of public health at Sheffield Council, said health bosses in South Yorkshire were determined to deal with the problem.
“These cheap or ‘fake’ cigarettes are extremely harmful to those who smoke them and our communities,” he said.
“Smoking is well known to cause a number of serious health problems and all cigarettes contain over 4,000 toxins, but fake cigarettes can also contain animal excrement and floor sweepings.”
Dr Wight added: “This danger is particularly relevant to young people, who are still growing and developing.
“Breathing in toxins from smoking can damage their lungs and lead to long-term illnesses – all tobacco is dangerous, can damage kids’ lives and lead to early death. One in two smokers die early because they smoked.”
n Anyone with information about the sale of illegal cigarettes should visit www.stopcigsforkids.co.uk or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.