New research has revealed South Yorkshire has seen an increase of 22 per cent in illegal cigarette consumption in the lockdowns, posing a suspected threat to Barnsley’s long-running stop-smoking campaign.
The research - conducted by KPMG - highlighted the significant rise in ‘dangerous’ contraband which are known to contain contaminants and a lack of safety features, such as fire retardant bands.
The data found the national increase in consumption of illegal cigarettes to have risen by nine per cent, a significantly lower figure than the increase found in South Yorkshire.
Coun Jim Andrews, cabinet spokesperson for public health, said: "We want everyone in Barnsley to be able to live a healthy life.
“No cigarette is good for you, and quitting smoking now and forever is the best thing you can do to improve your health and the health of those around you.
"Cheaper cigarettes may be tempting but illegal tobacco contains even higher levels of cancer-causing toxins.
“There are a number of signs to look out for, including spelling mistakes on packaging, foreign health warnings, warnings without pictures, cheaper prices and an unusual taste or smell.
"I want to reassure residents that we will act on reports of illegal tobacco in our community, including prosecuting those responsible.
“If you have any information around illegal tobacco, you can report this anonymously to regulatory services.
"There is support available locally to help residents quit smoking.”
A spokesperson from the hospital added: "We are committed to supporting all staff, patients and visitors who smoke to quit and to ‘make smoking invisible’ in and around the trust grounds.
“Our hospital site has been a smoke free site for some time and very recently, working closely with Barnsley Council, became the first hospital site in the country to introduce surrounding smoke-free road areas.
"Stopping smoking is one of the best things for your health and the hospital trust, working with its healthcare partners, fully supports people to do this.”
Cem Uzundal - head of field force sales from multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company Philip Morris - said: “To increase profits, illegal tobacco is produced with cheap materials, and with little regard for health and quality controls.
“Seized counterfeit cigarettes have even been found to containing mites, insect eggs, fungi and even faeces.
“Illicit products are also completely unnecessary.
“Smoke-free alternatives are widely available to legal-age smokers, such as heated tobacco products, which are both affordable and less harmful than continued smoking.”