A joint operation in Darlington has seen illegal vapes seized from several shops in the town.
Darlington trading standards team joined forces with police officers from Durham Constabulary in several days of action targeting shops across the town in a bid to tackle sales of illegal vapes, which are often being sold to children.
The visits, which took place between 30 November and 5 December, were part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HM Revenue & Customs to tackle illegal tobacco.
“The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law,” Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, said.
“Having removed 21 million illegal cigarettes, 5,800kg of hand rolling tobacco and almost 175kg of shisha products from sale, the National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC continues to successfully disrupt this illicit trade.”
Acting on complaints received, the trading standards team and police visited seven shops across the town, accompanied by detection dogs Maggie and Cooper, from BWY Canine Ltd who helped sniff out hidden cash, tobacco, and cigarettes in six of the premises.
Illegal vapes were found at Food Plus and S B Mini Market on North Road. All of the vapes seized contained oversized tanks, with the most common type being 3,500 puff bars. A vape pen, with the legal 2ml tank size, should provide no more than 600-800 puffs.
Illegal vapes and suspected illegal cigarettes were discovered at the Corner Shop on High Northgate, Neasham Road Mini Market, Parkgate Mini Market, and Yarm Road Mini Market.
Shaun Trevor, who led the operation on behalf of the trading standards team, said: “We encourage residents to report any concerns about any suspected illegal products to our team.”
Trading standards officers also accompanied police on Operation Autumn on 1 December, when they visited three premises during the evening, and outside normal office working hours, and seized illegal goods in two of them. Illegal vapes and/or suspected illegal cigarettes were seized from Babylon on Gladstone Street and the Easy Shop on Victoria Road.
Following up on intelligence received, trading standards and police officers also visited the Dima Mini Market on North Road on 5 December and seized illegal, over-strength vapes, suspected illegal cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco.
In total, across the three days, 489 illegal vapes, 19,580 cigarettes and 7.65 kilograms of hand rolling tobacco were seized, further disrupting the illicit trade in the town. The council said the investigations in relation to the seizures are ongoing and further action will follow.
“Darlington trading standards team will continue to work closely with other agencies to tackle the sale and supply of illegal vapes and tobacco products in the town particularly to children,” Councillor Mike Renton, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said.
“Those that engage in illegal sales hurt other businesses in the town that do follow the rules and we are working hard to ensure this does not happen.
“We will continue our efforts to monitor and visit stores which sell illegal products, and don’t comply with age restrictions, and will use all available measures including prosecuting those responsible. You can help by reporting anything of concern to trading standards, anonymously if you wish.”