A CRACKDOWN on illicit cigarettes is taking place across the region to mark National No Smoking Day this month.

North Yorkshire County Council is marking No Smoking Day on March 14 with the launch of a campaign aimed to tackle the problems caused by the sale of illicit tobacco.

Illicit tobacco refers to cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco or other smoking products that have been smuggled into Britain without tax being paid on them, or are counterfeit.

They are usually available through unlicensed outlets which often sell tobacco products to youngsters and have links with increasing crime rates on a local level.

Illicit tobacco, which is cheaper than legitimate goods, can make it harder for smokers to quit and easier for youngsters to pick up the habit.

The "Keep it out" campaign aims to highlight these problems and will encourage both smokers and non-smokers to report the sale of illicit tobacco through a confidential telephone line.

The county council’s trading standards team is already working with retailers and its partner organisations to raise awareness of illicit tobacco, whilst carrying out an enforcement action when required.

This has included the use of sniffer dogs and has led to illicit products with a high street value of over £75,000 being removed from sale.

Cllr Caroline Dickinson said: “Our trading standards team is urging anyone who has information about the supply of illicit tobacco to help tackle this problem by reporting it anonymously through the ‘Keep it out’ e-form on www.keep-it-out.co.uk, or via telephone on 0300-9990000.

“The county council also funds a free stop-smoking service called Smokefreelife North Yorkshire to support anyone who wants to give up, and by not smoking, you are encouraging others, particularly young people, not to start.”

A recent survey in every district showed overall that 31 per cent of smokers have tried illicit tobacco and the illicit trade makes up nine per cent of the tobacco market.

Ryedale had one of the highest illicit purchasing rates in the county, according to the survey.

The campaign is being delivered by the county council’s trading standards team and staff from local authorities in the North-East, West Yorkshire and Hull.