TODAY is No Smoking Day, a day when there is a national focus on smoking, the harms that it causes, how to quit and the work that is being done behind the scenes to reduce the number of people that smoke.

One in every two long term smokers will die prematurely as a result of their addiction and over 5000 people die every year in Wales of a smoking related disease. Currently 17% of adults in Wales smoke. This is the lowest it has ever been but that is still 425,000 people. Smoking is the cause of misery to many families and is a significant burden on our healthcare system.

For these reasons there is a big focus on helping people to quit and preventing people from starting to smoke in the first place. New smokers are mostly children and most current smokers started their habit well before they became an adult.

There are many agencies in Wales with a part to play and Trading Standards in Wales is one of them. Trading Standards has a key focus on the trade in illegal tobacco. In 2021, supported by funding from HMRC under Operation Cece, Trading Standards Officers have seized over 3 million fags across the whole of Wales with a street value of over ¾ of a million pounds. This is made up of over 2.8 million cigarettes and nearly half a ton of rolling tobacco.

Illegal tobacco is available to buy across Wales from a variety of outlets including shops and through social media platforms. It is typically about half the price of legitimate tobacco and there is no control over the age of customers. This makes it much easier for children to buy tobacco and become addicted. Most adult smokers want to quit but the easy availability of cheap tobacco makes it much harder.

Roger Mapleson, Lead Officer for Trading Standards Wales on Tobacco said: “The illegal tobacco market presents a major threat to health, particularly the health of children. Illegal tobacco sellers don’t care about age restrictions or other laws that restrict the sale of tobacco and make cigarettes easily available to kids at affordable prices. Those that sell illegal tobacco are at end of an international supply chain. The money generated from sales funds organised crime that is connected to other illegal activity including other illegal drugs.

“Many of the seizures are currently the subject of investigations that will lead to the prosecution of the individuals responsible. Trading Standards will continue to tackle illegal tobacco across the country and anyone involved in the supply of illegal tobacco can expect to have stock seized and criminal action taken against them.”

You can help drive illegal tobacco out of your community. To report it and to find out more visit https://noifs-nobutts.co.uk/. Alternatively, report it to the charity Crimestoppers, 100% anonymously, on freephone 0800 555 111.

If you want to stop smoking visit https://www.helpmequit.wales/