Illicit cigarettes bought in Preston shops are to be tested by a group of science students from UCLan to show the public what additional nasties they contain compared to legally sold tobacco.
The banned products will be used by the chemistry students as part of their final year project, in support of the Evening Post’s Don’t Let Them Make a Packet campaign.
Dr Matthew J Baker, Division of Chemistry, School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, will lead the project next month, with the results expected around Easter.
Today he said: “ UCLan prides itself on world-leading research with real world impact.
“This study will highlight to the Preston population what exactly is in illicit cigarettes and hopefully lead to a reduction in crime.”
Students Richard Freemantle, Andrew Tyler, Christina Clift, and Callum Worth will be testing to see if the cigarettes have higher levels of chemicals than legally sold and regulated cigarettes, but will also test for additional products thrown into the tobacco such as rat droppings, sawdust, floor sweepings and arsenic, which have all previously been found in black market cigarettes.
UCLan is among a growing number of agencies supporting the campaign, including the Tobacco Free Futures charity, central Lancashire PCT, Lancashire Police, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, National Federation of Retail Newsagents, the tobacco industry, and several retailers trade magazines and websites.
More than 80 people have signed an e-petition calling for tougher action on the criminals behind the trade, who often receive softer penalties than comparatively similar drugs cases.
The campaign is raising awareness that illicit tobacco kills four times as many people as illegal drugs, is often peddled to people in vulnerable communities who can’t afford full priced tobacco, is undermining efforts by health organisations to get people to quit, and is more likely to spark a house fire.
The trade affects legitimate retailers and is estimated to cost taxpayers £100 a year.