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Illegal cigarettes and vapes found hidden in shops

Illegal cigarettes and vapes found hidden in shops
12 April 2024

Around 140 illegal vapes and 12,000 cigarettes have been seized from four Darlington stores and a vehicle during a joint operation carried out by our trading standards team and police officers from Durham Constabulary.

In addition 6.5kg of hand rolling tobacco was also discovered and seized, with the help of tobacco detection dogs Griff, Bran and Cooper from BWY Canine.

The operation took place earlier this month following a test purchase exercise which netted eleven sales of illegal cigarettes from eleven attempts.

Shaun Trevor, who led the operation on behalf of the council’s trading standards team, said: “These vital multi-agency operations are designed to disrupt and frustrate the supply of illegal products, which harms the health of Darlington residents and the interests of legitimate businesses. If you sell illegal vapes or cigarettes, especially to children, then expect a visit from us.

“From a health point of view, the message is clear, if you don't smoke, don't vape - and children should never vape. We would also encourage residents and businesses to report any concerns about any suspected illegal products. We take complaints seriously and will investigate them all, and take action where appropriate.”

This latest day of action, aimed to tackle the roots of the problem as well as removing illegal goods from sale, resulted in the seizure of illegal goods worth almost £12,500. It formed part of Operation Nightstar, a joint trading standards and police operation targeting illegal vape and cigarette sellers with a particular focus on those who sell to children.

The total value of seized goods thus far as part of this operation is just over £335,000 over a two-year period which will have a huge impact on these traders who are deliberately flouting the law.

Seizures of illegal goods such as illegal, over-strength vapes and illegal tobacco products, were made in Darlington from Corner Shop, Northgate; UK Mini Market, Victoria Road; Ali’s, Whitby Way and Darlo Vapes, High Northgate. A vehicle was also stopped as part of the operation and found to contain a large quantity of these illegal goods. The work was eagerly assisted by tobacco detection dogs Griff, Bran and Cooper from BWY Canine.

These premises were all visited following complaints from members of the public. All traders were given advice on the law particularly in relation to underage sales and reminded of their obligations.

Lord Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “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.”

Anyone with any information that can assist trading standards in Darlington can email [email protected] or report it using the online form (this can be done anonymously) at  or you can contact Police on 101 with any information, or submit it online via the 101 Live Chat:


Photo caption: Tobacco detection dog Cooper on the hunt for illegal vapes and tobacco.

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