Friday, 16 January 2009
Why counterfeit tobacco matters
I went to a briefing yesterday for councillors about the work of the City Council's Alcohol and Tobacco Unit (which is part of Trading Standards). I must admit my first reaction when hearing about counterfeit tobacco was to think "so what"? What do I care after all if Benson and Hedges lose a bit of profit. But the sale of this stuff in Liverpool (and apparently lots is brought in) is doing all sorts of real and potential harm. Firstly when the government put up the legal age for buying cigarettes there was an unintended consequence which is that those between 16 and 18 who already smoked had to move to buying the counterfeit stuff in some cases. There is also evidence that in areas that rely on one small corner shop the growth in sales of counterfeit stuff (usually from someones house) can mean the difference between the shop surviving or not. But what really shocked me was all the rubbish that is found in the cigarettes and how harmful that is. Apart from arsenic and other chemicals that are not that great for you, officers have found fibreglass being used regularly to bulk the stuff out. And it can't be good to be sucking that stuff down. In Liverpool the Alcohol and Tobacco Unit is, I am told, unique in the region and is already making a difference in dealing with these potential health hazards.