Thousands of illegal cigarettes and more than 100 packs of rolling tobacco have been seized from shops across Darlington in the latest day of action.
Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards officers and other council staff teamed up with Police, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Immigration officers in a joint operation targeting businesses in the area that were believed to be selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco. Several premises were also suspected of selling over-strength vapes.
A number of properties were visited last week as part of Operation CeCe, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HMRC to tackle illegal tobacco.
Suspected counterfeit or illicit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco was seized from S V Market and Darlington Mini Market, both on Gladstone Street; Food Plus on North Road; UK Mini Market on Victoria Road; and Yarm Road Mini Market. The premises were all visited following complaints from members of the public.
In total 1,272 packs of cigarettes and 115 packs of hand-rolling tobacco were seized. Officers also found 156 Illegal over-strength vapes in three of the premises, which were also seized. Some of these vapes were 10,000 puffs when the legal maximum equates to around 600 puffs (which is equivalent to around two packs of cigarettes).
This activity follows on from the work the trading standards team has conducted in partnership with police officers from Durham Constabulary under Operation Nightstar, which targeted sellers of these illegal goods particularly to children.
The businesses were all found to be using sophisticated concealments in which to store the illegal cigarettes and vapes which would most likely have remained undetected if not for the diligent work of Griff, Bran and Cooper, tobacco dogs from BWY Canine.
Shaun Trevor who led the operation on behalf of Darlington Brough Council’s trading standards team, said: “If you sell illegal vapes or cigarettes especially to children, then expect a visit from us.
“We would encourage residents to report any concerns about any suspected illegal products. We take complaints seriously and will investigate them all and take action where appropriate. We have further actions planned in order to stem the flow of these illegal products in Darlington, particularly looking at landlords who allow their properties to be used for this illegal trade.”
Councillor Amanda Riley, the council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: “This trade in illegal cigarettes and vapes not only harms our communities but also businesses who are complying with the law and finding that they can’t compete due to nearby stores selling illegal goods at pocket money prices to children.”
Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, added: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. Having removed 27 million illegal cigarettes, 7,500kg 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.”
Darlington’s trading standards, part of the council’s Community Safety team, will continue to work closely with other agencies to tackle the sale and supply of illicit tobacco in the town.
Anyone with any information that can assist trading standards can email email@example.com or report it using the online form (this can be done anonymously) at www.darlington.gov.uk/ts-report-it
Photo L-R: Tobacco detection dogs Griff, Bran and Cooper with the trading standards team Shaun Trevor, Claire Starkey, John Bottomley and Arun George, with some of the illegal goods seized.