For the first time ever Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service will be joining forces with Trading Standards officers for Operation June and appearing in the centre of the town from 11am today (Wednesday).
The new joint campaign – Operation June – is named after June Buffham, 71, who lost her life in a house fire in Spalding in April 2012, linked to illegal cigarettes.
Her daughter, Julie Grant, has been campaigning to raise awareness of the increased risks these cigarettes and illicit tobacco cause.
She said: “I’ll never forget hearing those words, ‘there has been a fire at home and your mum is dead’; they will haunt me for the rest of my life.
“I want to do everything I can to help stop another family going through what mine went through. It may be ten years since my mum passed, but the pain is still as raw as if it had happened yesterday.”
The fire in June’s home was linked to an illegal Jin Ling cigarette being dropped in her chair. These cigarettes, as with other illegal ones found locally, do not have ‘speed bumps’ in the paper that cause them to self-extinguish if they are not being smoked.
Julie added: “I knew that my mum smoked, but I had never really thought about the types of cigarettes she was smoking, just that they were a cheaper brand. And I was totally unaware of the increased risk she was putting herself at by smoking illegal cigarettes.
“If you have family or friends that smoke, do you know about their smoking habits? What kind of cigarettes do they smoke? Do they smoke in the house? Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them and their family until it does.
“The people that sell these products are only thinking about their own financial gain, and not the real human consequences of their actions. They’re ruining lives and they need to be stopped.”
The roadshows take place on:
· Boston Market today (Wednesday April 20)
· Lincoln city centre on Friday April 22
Dexter the fire investigation dog and his handler will be there to demonstrate the work they do and there will be fire prevention advice too.
If you are looking to quit smoking, OneYou Lincolnshire will provide details of support services available.
Emma Milligan, operational delivery manager for Lincolnshire Trading Standards, said: “Since June’s death, we’ve cracked down hard on those selling illicit tobacco, and taken tens of thousands of dodgy cigarettes off Lincolnshire’s streets.
“Unfortunately, it is an ongoing battle as criminals find new, elaborate ways of trying to hide these things from us. However, working on gathered intelligence and tip-offs from the public, we can find the shops that sell these products, uncover their hiding places, and bring sellers to justice.
“It’s not just the fire hazard these products pose, and the obvious health dangers, we find that the sale of illegal cigarettes attracts other anti-social behaviour and criminal activity to an area.”
If you know anything about illegal tobacco products being sold in our area you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.
Find fire safety advice on smoking and vaping at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/home-fire-safety/smoking-vaping-safety.