Watchdogs could start spying to combat illegal tobacco trade in Norfolk
- Credit: Ian Burt
Watchdogs looking to tackle the problem of illegal tobacco in Norfolk are considering using surveillance to spy on those who flout the law.
Trading Standards officers seized 160,000 contraband cigarettes and more than 65kg of hand rolling tobacco in the first three quarters of 2017/18.
The illegal tobacco, without mandatory health risk warnings, has been illegally imported and has been a particular problem in Great Yarmouth.
Four Norwich shops and one in Yarmouth have had licences revokes because illegal tobacco was found, with the help of tobacco detection dogs.
But in the year ahead, officers are looking to do more, including working with landlords to evict tenants who sell illegal tobacco.
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And, in a report which came before Norfolk County Council's communities committee today, officers said they were also considering surveillance.
They said: 'Whilst surveillance is extremely costly, other local authorities have had success in tracing the supply chain of illegal tobacco; leading to seizures of large amounts that have had a real impact on the supply of illegal tobacco in their areas.'
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The committee also heard how the rate of adults smoking in Norfolk was 13.5pc, lower than the national average of 15.5pc, with the number of people smoking in decline.
But there were concerns that the number of children aged 15 who smoke more than one cigarette a week was 11.4pc, above the 8.2pc national figure.
And smoking in pregnancy has gone up, with 12.7pc of mother's still smoking at the time of their baby's birth - higher than the 10.7pc national average.
That means about 1,143 babies are born in Norfolk each year to mothers who continued to smoke throughout pregnancy, with the problem most apparent in Great Yarmouth and Waveney and in west Norfolk.
Council officers said they had run campaigns to get pregnant women to give up and were working with the maternity services.
They are also working with the University of East Anglia to get better data as to why this is happening.
County councillor Harry Humphrey, who represents Marshland South, added he was disappointed that so many films still feature people smoking.