A daughter who lost her 71-year-old mum in a house fire linked to illegal cigarettes has spoken out about her anguish as she joins a campaign to highlight the dangers of smoking counterfeits.
Julie Grant’s mum, June Buffham, died 10 years ago after a cigarette failed to self-extinguish when it fell on her chair at her home in Spalding.
Since then, Julie has been campaigning to raise awareness of the increased risks of illegal cigarettes, and has now joined Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Fire and Rescue to highlight the dangers of illicit tobacco in a campaign named ‘Operation June’.
Julie 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, don’t have ‘speed bumps’ in the paper that cause them to self-extinguish if they’re 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.”
As part of Operation June, Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue will be holding roadshows in Boston and Lincoln to raise awareness of illegal cigarettes and provide fire safety advice.
The roadshows will take place at Lincoln city centre on Friday, April 22 and Boston Market on Wednesday, April 20.
Dexter the fire investigation dog and his handler will be there to demonstrate the work they do in establishing the cause of fires, and Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue will provide advice in preventing fires in the home.
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 your area,bcall Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report online at crimestoppers-uk.org.