A Billingham shop has been closed for selling illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and vapes.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council secured a three-month closure order notice for Station Express on Station Road at Teesside Magistrates' Court on Wednesday (February 28).

As well as reports of vapes sold to children, the court heard that Trading Standards and Cleveland Police officers visited the premises in November last year and seized several illicit and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco products.

Further test purchases by the Council's Trading Standards officers confirmed illicit vaping products were being sold from the shop which did not comply with labelling regulations.

The items seized included 84 non-compliant oversized vapes, 174 e-liquids which exceeded the 2ml legal limit, and 16 vapes which infringed a registered trademark.

Despite the business operator being warned about criminal activity at the store, when Trading Standards officers returned to the store in February 2024, they seized another 31 vapes that were concealed in a modified, hidden compartment under the shop counter.

They also made another test purchase where an illicit vape was sold to a child.

Councillor Norma Stephenson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Counterfeit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes pose a huge health risk to people because it’s difficult to know what’s in them.

“It’s particularly worrying that these products are being sold to children, so I’m really pleased that our Trading Standards team has been able to secure this closure with support from Cleveland Police.

“The closure should remind business owners that we have a zero-tolerance approach to sales of illicit products and anyone found selling these items will be brought before the courts.

“I'd also encourage local people to report any sales of illicit tobacco to us so we can take the necessary action."

Sergeant Mitch Baldwin from Stockton’s Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We will continue to support our partners in Trading Standards to reduce the harm being caused to our communities through the sale of illicit tobacco and vaping products.

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"I would urge anyone with information to make a report either directly to Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards or through ourselves by calling 101 or reporting online.”

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 information on the supply of illicit tobacco from any business or residential premises in the Borough is urged to contact Trading Standards on 01642 526560 or email trading.standards@stockton.gov.uk.