Oversized vapes seized in Darlington operation targeting sales to children

Illegal vaping and smoking products were seized from six premises in Darlington. Credit: Darlington Borough Council

Thousands of pounds worth of illegal vaping and smoking products were seized as part of an operation targeting sales aimed at children.

In several visits across three days, Darlington Trading Standards and Durham Police confiscated 489 illegal vapes, 19,580 cigarettes and 7.65 kilograms of rolling tobacco between 30 November and 5 December.

Acting on complaints received, the team visited seven shops across the town, accompanied by detection dogs Maggie and Cooper, which helped sniff out hidden cash, tobacco and cigarettes in six of the premises.

Maggie and Cooper helped sniff out hidden cash, tobacco, and cigarettes across six premises. Credit: Darlington Borough Council

All of the vapes seized contained oversized tanks, with the most common type being 3,500 puff bars.

Shaun Trevor who led the operation on behalf of Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards, said: "We encourage residents to report any concerns about any suspected illegal products to our team."

The reasons for vapes being illegal include:

  • Retailers selling vapes from brands that have not been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

  • Vapes carrying over the legal 2ml tank size. A vape pen should provide no more than 600-800 puffs.

  • Carrying illegal ingredients. The highest nicotine strength for vapes is 2%. The nicotine liquid should not contain any additives or ingredients such as caffeine or taurine. 

  • Carrying the wrong health warning. All vape products containing nicotine should have the following health warning "This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance" covering 30% of the front and back of the packet.

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.

Following up on intelligence received, trading standards and police officers also visited a shop on 5 December and seized illegal, over-strength vapes, suspected illegal cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco.

Investigations in relation to the seizures are ongoing and further action will follow.

Councillor Mike Renton, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: "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.

"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."

The visits were part of Operation Cece, a National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HM Revenue and Customs to tackle illegal tobacco.

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