A NEW campaign has been launched to protect young people and drive illegal tobacco out of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire.

New research shows that many smokers use illegal tobacco because it is cheap and easy for them to buy. It is also a key reason for young people taking up smoking and bringing criminals into communities.

The campaign by Smokefree South West comes seven years after the smoking ban was introduced in England.

Dr Mark Pietroni, interim director of public health for South Gloucestershire, said: “We are moving in the right direction but need to continue to work hard to reduce the number of people who smoke illegal tobacco.

“This is a serious problem. This campaign is about helping the public understand and help us by providing information that will help us target the criminals who damage our community and people's health."

Councillor Dorcas Binns, cabinet member for public health at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "Illegal tobacco is often sold at pocket money prices that encourage young people to take up smoking and make it easier for people to stay hooked on tobacco.”

Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, said: “Illegal tobacco can be most easily recognised if it’s cheap. An £8 packet for less than half the price, or a pack or pouch with foreign health warnings is illegal. Anyone who will sell that won’t ask questions about age, and might well have even more dangerous things to sell."

The sale of illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously online at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk or by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.