Illegal Cigarettes in Wales

Posted 16th April 2018 by Dave Cross
Wales is reported to be labouring with an illegal tobacco problem. Mark Drakeford AM picked up an award in December, but his adherence to misinformation and the opposition to vaping could have laid the groundwork to helping the principality’s problem to thrive.

For two years, Mark Drakeford waged a war on vaping and harm reduction. Despite glaring evidence to the contrary, and expert testimonials, he persisted with a bastardised version of the cautionary principle and ignored the impact this would have on smokers.

Moreover, by persisting with fictional tales of vaping devices being marketed to children and there being a gateway effect, Drakeford was poisoning the harm reduction well and contributing to ill-placed fear within the general public.

Drakeford’s quotes

  • Sky on Drakeford: “Wales' Health Minister Mark Drakeford said e-cigarettes were a ‘gateway’ to deadly tobacco and wants to bring the devices in line with existing smoking laws.”
  • Drakeford: “There is evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are a source of second-hand exposure to nicotine.”
  • Drakeford: “We must remember that, in comparison with other available stop-smoking aids, e-cigarettes are the only method, which involves the ingestion of that highly-addictive substance nicotine directly into the lungs.”
  • Drakeford: “A New Zealand study, published in The Lancet last September, found that e-cigarettes were no more effective than nicotine patches at helping smokers to quit.”
  • Drakeford: “The tobacco industry is deliberately and cynically positioning e-cigarettes in order to create – as their advertising says – the ‘Future of Smoking’.”
  • Drakeford: “Belgium, Australia and Brazil, find the evidence in relation to e-cigarettes so alarming and overwhelming, they are banned...We want to bring Wales into line with those forward-thinking areas around the world.”

Is it possible that the award-winning AM’s outpourings have contributed to a situation where “Illegal tobacco [is being] sold across Wales at 'pocket money prices”?

S4C is reporting that around 15% of all tobacco currently sold in Wales is illegal. The rate is worse than any other part of the United Kingdom. A raid on a private home uncovered £1,000’s-worth of tobacco, and £5,000’s-worth was unearthed in five Powys newsagents.

Clive Jones, Powys Trading Standards, said: “We’ve found increasing criminality involved in the sale of illegal tobacco, with organised crime gang involvement in the sale. Those gangs aren’t just based in Powys, they’ve got links nationwide. Monies aren’t staying locally, it’s being spread around. It’s a surprise in an area where, until around five years ago, we didn’t really see this to be a problem.”

Suzanne Cass, ASH Cymru, added: “It’s sold at pocket money prices and we know that children are accessing the illegal tobacco. We’re hoping that we’re going to be able to inform a programme of development around tackling illegal tobacco in Wales.”

It is rumoured that Drakeford is in line to become the next leader for Welsh Labour – can the principality’s smokers and children afford more of his anti-harm reduction meddling?

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker