THE sale of illegal tobacco on the streets of the North-East has almost halved in the last decade, according to the latest figures.

Despite the recession, tougher action to reduce the supply and demand and stop dealers selling has resulted in illicit tobacco driven down to just nine per cent of the total North-East tobacco market in 2010-11.

This is a dramatic fall since 2000-01 when 21 per cent of all tobacco sold in the North-East was illegal.

The independent North-East Illicit Tobacco Survey commissioned by the regional tobacco control agency, Fresh, has analysed the attitudes and buying patterns of thousands of people across the North-East in communities where illegal tobacco has been a problem.

The figures back up the most recent official statistics from HMRC which show the illicit market has halved since the late 1990s.

There has been a steady decline in the proportion of smokers buying illicit tobacco, especially among 16 to 34-year-olds, while those smokers who do buy illicit tobacco are buying less of it.

The independent survey found:

  • The illegal tobacco market now makes up just nine per cent of the overall tobacco market in the North East, compared to 13 per cent in 2011 and 15 per cent in 2009
  • Only one in six smokers (17 per cent) now buys illegal tobacco - down from one in five (20 per cent) smokers buying it in 2011 and one in four (24 per cent) smokers in 2009.

Fresh ran the "Keep It Out" campaign highlighting how illicit tobacco can get children hooked, and urging people to report illegal tobacco dealers in their communities.

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