Dorset Council’s Trading Standards team led a multiagency operation on Tuesday 26 March 2024 responding to intelligence about the sale of illegal vapes, tobacco, and cigarettes from several premises in Weymouth.

Alongside officers from Dorset Police, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Regional Trading Standards Illegal Tobacco & Vapes officer, and B.W.Y Canine Ltd with their specialist detection dogs, the Trading Standards team visited three premises.

Two of the premises were found to be in possession of a large quantity of suspected illegal vapes, cigarettes, and hand rolling tobacco.

In total, the team seized around 1,000 vapes, over 18,000 cigarettes, and almost 7kg of hand rolling tobacco.

A vehicle was also seized from each premises, as they were found to contain suspected illegal goods. No illegal goods were found at the third premises.

Vapes and e-cigarettes are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which places restrictions on how much nicotine they can contain, and what other chemicals can be used. They also stipulate that child-resistant packaging is used, and health and safety warnings are clearly displayed.

However, many of the devices seized by Trading Standards teams flout these rules, and there are concerns that some may be designed specifically to appeal to children and young people.

HMRC estimates that the illicit market in tobacco duty and related VAT was £2.8 billion in 2021 to 2022. The proceeds of this crime are suspected to fund the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and even human beings across the globe.

Anna Eastgate, Corporate Director for Place Services at Dorset Council, said:

“These vital multi-agency operations are designed to disrupt and frustrate the supply of illegal products, which harms the health of Dorset residents and the interests of legitimate businesses. I’d like to thank our colleagues at Dorset Police, the HMRC, and the Regional Trading Standards Illegal Tobacco & Vapes officer, for a job well done.”

Neighbourhood Inspector Sam Goom, of Weymouth and Portland Police, commented:

“We are working closely with our partners in Trading Standards to target the illicit sale of illegal vapes and tobacco – most of which end up being used by young people. We will continue to work hard to protect our community from the dangers of these illegal items. This day of action demonstrates our commitment to relentlessly pursue those who offer these items for sale within Weymouth.”

Ben Hayes, Regional Trading Standards Illegal Tobacco & Vapes officer, added:

“It’s vital that we recognise the importance of intelligence, and we thank members of the public for taking the time to report this information to us. Without this, these multi agency operations aren’t as successful.  The sale and supply of illegal tobacco funds organised crime and harms your communities. Vaping is less harmful than smoking and can play a role in helping adult smokers to quit. But the message is clear, if you don’t smoke, don’t vape – and children should never vape.”

Trading Standards work closely with other enforcement agencies to protect the health of Dorset residents and the interests of legitimate Dorset businesses. We welcome any intelligence about the illegal sale of tobacco, vapes, or other age-restricted products – these can be reported (anonymously if desired) to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

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