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11 April 2012, 06:28 | Updated: 11 April 2012, 06:39
A new campaign's launching in Essex to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal tobacco.
New research has found that nearly a third of people in Essex have used illegal tobacco and more than one in 10 admit to buying it.
Children are being put at risk because the unrestricted access to cut-price tobacco makes it easier for them to smoke and can bring them into contact with criminals.
A new campaign is launching across the county led by an alliance of the local NHS, Community Services, Trading Standards, and County and District Councils across Essex in a move to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal tobacco in our area.
Illegal tobacco - which comes in the form of smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco - is sold at around half the price of legal tobacco and can have a devastating effect on communities.
Graham Seward, NHS Public Health Specialist for Tobacco Control in North Essex, said: "The criminal gangs that sell smuggled cigarettes are not concerned with who buys them, they do not care who they sell to including children and under age young people.
"But as well as causing criminals to prey upon our children, purchasing illegal tobacco brings other crime in to Essex and undermines legitimate businesses."
Roger Walters, Essex County Councillor, said: "People who are addicted to cigarettes can be drawn in to purchasing illegal tobacco because of its price. However, if they were aware of the effect that their actions are having on their community we are confident they would think twice.
"It is a scary fact that illegal tobacco also goes hand in hand with the sale of drugs and illegal alcohol and is often linked with more serious crime."
To find out more about the campaign go to at www.no-illegal-tobacco.co.uk.