Hundreds of illegal oversized vapes – including a brightly coloured product shaped like a children’s toy – have been seized in a huge County Durham crackdown.

Officers from the trading standards department at Durham County Council visited three shops in the county after receiving intelligence from the public.

326 illegal vapes were seized for having tanks with a capacity exceeding the 2ml legal limit.

Among them was a bright pink vape manufactured to look like a children’s milkshake – despite containing highly addictive nicotine, and its tank being ten times the legal size.

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The Northern Echo: Bags of vapes were seized by officers from trading standards.Bags of vapes were seized by officers from trading standards. (Image: Durham County Council)

This comes as concerns have been raised about youth vaping - which is "fast becoming an epidemic" according to paediatricians. 

There have been calls for the government to ban disposable vapes after Action on Smoking and Health showed that there had been a 50 per cent rise in the proportion of children that have tried vaping in the last year. 

Cllr John Shuttleworth, the Cabinet member for highways, rural communities and community safety, said: “Retailers must make sure the products they sell comply with UK regulations.

“All of the vapes seized in this operation had oversized tanks and none of them had been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

“We encourage all retailers to ensure they only source such products from a reputable supplier.

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The Northern Echo: The illegal Twisted Bar vape.The illegal Twisted Bar vape. (Image: Durham County Council)

“It was particularly concerning to find a pink toy-shaped vape branded as a strawberry ice cream ‘Twister Bar’ and with a cartoon illustration on the side.

“It’s made to look appealing to children yet it contains nicotine and has a tank capacity of 20ml, which works out at about 7,000 puffs. That’s ten times the legal limit.

“It’s the first time we’ve come across this particular product in County Durham and we’re keen to make parents and carers aware that these products are out there.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners to tackle the issue and remove illegal products from the marketplace when we find them.

“Retailers must also act responsibly by making sure the products they sell comply with UK regulations and training their staff to prevent underage sales.”

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UK law bans the sale of nicotine products to those under 18, and limits how much nicotine and e-liquid can be contained in disposable vapes.

Since March last year, Durham County Council’s trading standards officers have seized almost 5,500 illegal vapes worth an estimated £66,000.

To report underage sales or sales of illegal products, contact the council’s trading standards team by emailing or calling 03000 261 016.