Taking action on smoking and health
For more information about the problem of illicit tobacco, see ASH Scotland's recent report Dodgy Cigs.
ASH Scotland recognises the serious problems that are posed by the illicit trade in tobacco - the key characteristic of the illicit trade being that it bypasses the regulation of tobacco supply which we have fought so hard to achieve.
At the same time we have to spend a great deal of time countering misleading information from the tobacco industry and its allies, which exaggerates the nature and threat of the illicit trade. The ill-founded claim that regulating the legal market will boost use of the illegal product is the mainstay used by the tobacco industry, and those who speak on its behalf, in opposing any interference in the tobacco market.
In fact, the number of illicit cigarettes used in the UK has decreased by 76% since 2001, according to HMRC figures, while the volume of illicit hand-rolling tobacco has decreased by 33%. Enforcement action against tobacco companies themselves has been a significant factor in this achievement.
Having no credibility themselves, tobacco companies prefer to fund other groups to do the talking for them (such as FOREST or the Tobacco Retailers Alliance) or will leave it to retail groups to lead the line.
In response ASH Scotland points out that:
Any consideration of the health and wellbeing of communities demands that we continue the regulatory pressure on tobacco, the most harmful consumer product on general sale. Cheap, lightly regulated tobacco would be a disaster for public health.
To ensure that consumption does not simply switch to the illegal trade this must be complemented by:
Community responses to illegal tobacco are a complex mix of concern over criminal gangs, fear over the unknown contents of the product and often a welcome for lower tobacco costs.
To help facilitate community engagement on the subject, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has produced a resource pack to support youth workers, health improvement officers, community education and others to build a discussion on illicit tobacco. You can access these materials for free.
Trading Standards officers need information about where the law is being broken before they can act to address it.
If you have any information about illicit tobacco or underage tobacco sales in your area, or any other form of illicit trading please email it to: TSSintel@cosla.gov.ukor Freephone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
In either case the information you give will be kept anonymous, recorded and collated with other intelligence.
Action on Smoking & Health (Scotland) (ASH Scotland) is a registered Scottish charity (SC 010412) and a company limited by guarantee(Scottish company no 141711). The registered office is 8 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HB.
ASH Scotland acknowledges with thanks the support of the British Heart Foundation and the Scottish Government in developing our website.