MORE than 94,000 illegal cigarettes have been seized by officers in County Durham in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile more than 20 per cent of premises where Durham County Council made test purchases to see if sellers are abiding by laws to prevent the sale of alcohol to children failed.

The council’s consumer protection team’s enforcement activities has made its annual report of its activity over the last 12 months, which has included its first ever closure of a premises for the repeated sale of illicit tobacco.

Westlea Mini Market, Seaham, shut down for two months in January for repeatedly selling illicit tobacco. More than 70,000 cigarettes were seized from the shop, which has since surrendered its licence.

As well as seizing 94,040 illegal cigarettes, they found £41.8kg of hand rolled tobacco and more than £4,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act, from seven homes and shops over the 12 months.

Councillor Brian Stephens, cabinet member for environment, health and consumer protection, said: “It is really pleasing that our team has continued its excellent work in 2017/2018 with so much illicit tobacco and the illegal money linked to it taken off our streets.

“Obtaining its first closure against a premises which was engaging in criminal activity was a notable success and it’s fantastic that more than 400 retailers have now been giving the training on age related products.

“We remain committed to working with our partners to tackle the damage to health and criminality associated with the illegal supply and misuse of tobacco and alcohol within County Durham.”

The council carried out 68 test purchases for alcohol, resulting in 14 failures and six for tobacco, all of which failed. A total of 89 test purchases were made.

It had 68 complaints about the sale of underage alcohol, nine about illicit alcohol and 105 about the sale of illicit tobacco.

It had a total of 190 complaints, including ones about the underage sale of e-cigarettes, tobacco, lottery tickets and fireworks.