Nottinghamshire County Council is launching a campaign to highlight the issue of children being targeted by criminals selling fake and smuggled tobacco – often at cheap prices.
Trading Standards and the county council tobacco control team are asking teachers, parents, and anyone who works with children and young people to report anyone selling illegal tobacco to under-18s.
The scheme comes as new figures in the British Medical Journal reveal that 39 children aged 11-15 in the East Midlands take up smoking every day.
Coun Joyce Bosnjak, chairman of the Nottinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Prevention work with young people will be key for us in tackling smoking levels in the long term but tackling the supply of illegal tobacco will help.
“Easy access to tobacco at pocket money prices draws children into the habit of smoking, which as we know can be long lasting and hard to break.
“If they start smoking now, they are much more likely to suffer long-term illnesses and die younger.”
Coun Glynn Gilfoyle, chairman of the community safety committee, highlighted the work being carried out to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children.
He said: “We do a lot of work to prevent smoking and help people to quit and smoking rates are falling across the county.
“And Trading Standards has had some great results targeting people selling fake and smuggled tobacco.
“Fake tobacco brings organised crime into our neighbourhoods and into contact with our children.”
As part of the campaign, posters and leaflets are being displayed in secondary schools, leisure centres and youth clubs.
Anyone wanting to obtain copies of the materials can download them from www.smokefreenotts.co.uk. If anyone has any information about folk selling illegal tobacco should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.