Illegal vapes worth more than £15,000 have been seized during a crackdown operation in County Durham.

Durham Trading Standards targeted shops in the east of the county suspected to be selling counterfeit cigarettes and vape products that do not meet legal requirements.

As a result, officers seized a total of 1,196 suspected illegal vapes worth approximately £15,300, along with 49 packets of cigarettes suspected to be counterfeit and valued at £245. If genuine, the value of the cigarettes would have been £539.

Ian Harrison Durham City Council business compliance manager explained that the sale of illicit goods has a serious impact on the community: “It attracts crime to neighbourhoods and makes it easier for children to access age-restricted products.

“Retailers can always ask us for advice if they are ever in doubt about whether a product is compliant. We would also urge members of the public with any information on the suspected sale of illegal items to report it to us, so that we can investigate and act.”

Andy Reynolds detective superintendent from Durham Constabulary said: “Illicit and dangerous tobacco and vapes can not only cause serious harm to people’s health, but the proceeds are often invested into organised crime and can help fund more serious and violent offences.

“It is crucial that we work collectively with our partners to keep our communities safe, and this operation is an excellent example of that.

“By working collaboratively with the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU), Trading Standards, Immigration Enforcement, and HMRC, we have taken a significant amount of illegal and dangerous vapes and tobacco off the streets of east Durham, which proves vital in tackling criminality, antisocial behaviour and protecting vulnerable people.”

Reynolds urged people to report any potential criminal activity in their community to the police.