Sniffer dogs are out in Lynn today as part of a campaign to urge the public to report illegal tobacco sales.
The campaign has been launched by trading standards and public health teams to help protect children by cracking down on traders who sell illicit cigarettes and tobacco.
As part of the launch, officials are joined by sniffer dogs on Lynn’s Tuesday Market Place from noon till 3pm today to demonstrate how the specialist animals find tobacco products.
Announcing the campaign, Margaret Dewsbury, chairwoman of Norfolk County Council’s communities committee said: “Illegal tobacco and cigarettes are being sold at ‘pocket money’ prices in our communities by dealers who don’t care that they’re making smoking accessible to our children, and helping them get hooked on it.
“The places that illegal tobacco is sold also puts our youngest residents at risk because they can be visiting people who might also be selling alcohol, drugs or have links with other criminal activity, including organised crime.
“Our campaign aims to raise awareness that illegal tobacco is not a victimless crime, but is a serious threat to our youngest citizens and their future health and wellbeing, that it harms neighbourhoods and brings crime into local communities.
“It also lets people know that If they don’t want their local children to get into smoking and know where illegal tobacco is being sold, they can do something about it and that we are ready to respond to any intelligence we receive.“
Dr Augustine Pereira, Norfolk County Council’s consultant in public health medicine added: “Everyone knows the damage that smoking does – and that our most vulnerable residents and most deprived neighbourhoods are the ones who suffer most from its effects.
“The Tobacco Control Alliance in Norfolk has an aspiration to make smoking history in Norfolk. If Norfolk’s residents get behind this campaign they can help Norfolk move towards making future generations grow up smoke free. They can also support smokers who want to quit by helping to remove a source of cheap tobacco which could undermine their resolve.”
Sophie Leney, Norfolk County Council’s trading standards manager said: “This campaign is an extension of our regular work to protect the most vulnerable residents in our communities by cracking down on criminals who prey on them.
“In the last two years our officers have seized hundreds of thousands of illegal cigarettes, carried out scores of premises inspections, and successfully brought many perpetrators before the courts where they have been rightly convicted for their crimes.
“We rely on the public being our eyes and ears to help us prevent activity like this from continuing and to prosecute those responsible, so I would encourage anyone who has information or any suspicion that illegal tobacco is being hawked around their communities to let us know.”
Five high streets across the county will be visited by officers between Tuesday, September 27 and Saturday, October 1.
As each high street visit will be linked to enforcement activity, the precise locations will not be divulged in advance.
Information can be provided by calling Citizens Advice consumer helpline (anonymously if you wish) on 03454 04 05 06 or via their online form at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer, or by calling 101 (always use 999 in an emergency).