Thousands of illegal cigarettes and over 100 packs of rolling tobacco have been seized in Darlington in a crackdown operation to tackle illegal tobacco and vapes.

Operation CeCe marked its last day of action last week, a National Trading Standards operation in partnership with HRMC, seizing over 1,200 illegal cigarettes and vapes that claimed to hold 10,000 puffs.

With the help of trusty sniffer dogs, businesses across the town who were suspected of selling illicit goods were visited by officials.

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The Northern Echo: Operation Cece team photo.Operation Cece team photo. (Image: DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL)

Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards officers and other council staff teamed up with Police, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Immigration officers in a joint operation targeting businesses in the area that were believed to be selling said illegal products.

Following public complaints, S V Market and Darlington Mini Market, both on Gladstone Street; Food Plus on North Road; UK Mini Market on Victoria Road; and Yarm Road Mini Market were all visited by officials and saw their suspected illicit stock seized.

In total, the haul added up to 1,272 packs of cigarettes, 115 packs of hand-rolling tobacco and 156 over-strength vapes containing 10,000 puffs when the legal limit is 600.

Shaun Trevor, who led the operation on behalf of Darlington Brough Council’s trading standards team, said: “If you sell illegal vapes or cigarettes especially to children, then expect a visit from us.

"We would encourage residents to report any concerns about any suspected illegal products. We take complaints seriously and will investigate them all and take action where appropriate.

"We have further actions planned in order to stem the flow of these illegal products in Darlington, particularly looking at landlords who allow their properties to be used for this illegal trade.”

Councillor Amanda Riley, the council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: "This trade in illegal cigarettes and vapes not only harms our communities but also businesses who are complying with the law and finding that they can’t compete due to nearby stores selling illegal goods at pocket money prices to children."

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Michael Bichard, chair of National Trading Standards, added: "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."