PEOPLE in County Durham are being encouraged to help stop local kids from smoking by reporting the sale of illegal tobacco.

It comes as new figures show around one in 10 cigarettes smoked in the North-East is illegal – with private homes or “tab houses” and dishonest shops the two leading illicit sources for buyers.

And around one in six smokers in the region buy illegal tobacco – slightly fewer than the one in four smokers who were buying it back in 2009.

The figures are from a new survey released this week by Fresh which has tracked the size and scale of the illegal tobacco market over the past decade.

It comes as the Keep it Out campaign runs another phase across County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear to generate intelligence for trading standards, police and HMRC to take action against dealers in local communities and to highlight the problems it causes.

Since November 2017, Keep It Out has generated over 4,200 intelligence reports to trading standards, leading to seizures, court action and shops facing closure orders and huge fines through the campaign.

UP to 87 per cent of people in the region believe illegal tobacco is a danger to kids and 69 per cent of people believe it brings crime into local communities.

The survey also shows that smoking is an addiction which starts in childhood with 15 the average age for North East smokers to have started smoking.

Joanne Waller, head of community protection at Durham County Council, said: “We are committed to stamping out illegal tobacco in County Durham, but we need the public’s help to identify the criminals putting the health of our communities at risk.

“Information provided by residents allows our Trading Standards team to investigate and take enforcement action against those selling illegal tobacco.

"Since January 2018, the execution of warrants at homes and businesses has resulted in more than 129,000 illegal cigarettes and 54 Kg of illegal tobacco being removed from communities across County Durham.

“Over the coming weeks we will be working with partners, businesses and residents to raise awareness of the harm that illegal tobacco can cause, especially to children and young people.

“We would encourage the public to report any concerns about the sale of illegal tobacco to the anonymous Keep it Out reporting line.”

All people need to do is visit or call 0300 999 0000 to report local sales to trading standards with full anonymity.

Support is also available in County Durham to help you quit, 0800 772 0565, text QUIT to 66777 or visit