TWO people have been arrested after more than 4,500 cigarettes and 20kg of hand rolling tobacco was seized in raid on an ice cream van known to park outside primary schools.

Trading Standards officers from Durham County Council and Durham Police made the discovery when they searched the van, which was at its storage location on a farm at West Auckland near Bishop Auckland, as part of a clampdown on illicit tobacco.

The raid, in which a man and woman were arrested, was carried out on Wednesday (February 25) following tip-offs the suspected counterfeit cigarettes were being sold from the van parked near primary schools in County Durham.

It is not known if any sales were made to children.

A large amount of cash was uncovered in the raid and the haul has an estimated street value of £4,000.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: “It is extremely concerning to receive information about suspected illegal tobacco being sold in the vicinity of schools.

“It is important to be clear that we do not know if tobacco has been sold to any children in this instance but we would obviously never wish for young people to be exposed to this type of activity.

“We know that most smokers start when they are children and every year 207,000 under-18s take up the habit, including nearly 9,000 in the North-East alone.

“A recent survey of smokers in the region found the average age at which they start was just 15.

“Working alongside our partners in the County Durham Tobacco Control Alliance we are committed to breaking the cycle of addiction and exposure to tobacco in every community so that fewer people are affected by this deadly habit.”

This was the latest in a series of joint operations between Trading Standards and police, with more than 53,600 illicit cigarettes and 1,249 pouches of illicit tobacco having been seized in the county since April 2014.

Anyone convicted of supplying counterfeit tobacco could face up to ten years in prison as well as unlimited fines and their assets may be seized via proceeds of crime action.

To report information about the supply of illegal tobacco, call Trading Standards on 03000-261016 or email