Campaign to stop illegal tobacco across North West

image captionFake cigarettes are cheaper and easier to buy

Children across the North West are becoming addicted to smoking because of the influx of illegal tobacco entering the region, experts have said.

Smoke Free North West said 60% of 14 to 17-year-olds who smoke regularly buy fake cigarettes.

The initiative, called Get Some Answers, has been launched to encourage people to tell the authorities.

Andrea Crossfield, of Smoke Free North West, said: "Those who sell illegal tobacco don't care who they sell to."

The campaign, which has started at Manchester Airport, aims to inform people about the dangers and downfalls of illegal tobacco being so prevalent across the region.

Ms Crossfield said: "The key is price and availability - illegal tobacco is available freely and cheaply from people who don't really care if they are selling to children.

'Fag run'

"Young people can buy their fake cigarettes out of cars, out of houses on estates. Those who sell it tend to have illegal alcohol and drugs freely available for their customers.

"The illegal tobacco trade is not just holiday-makers coming home with a few extra packets.

"There are gangs of people bringing container loads through airports and ports."

Ms Crossfield said a mother was caught trying to smuggle illegal tobacco through an airport in the North West on Christmas Day.

The woman had done the "fag run" to pay back a loan shark who had loaned her money so she could buy her daughter some Christmas presents, she said.

"All cigarettes are dangerous, the problem is that young people are getting hold of them earlier and earlier - they will get addicted to them and they will be killed by them."

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