£166,000 worth of suspected illegal tobacco and vapes have been seized by Trading Standards in a joint operation with Devon & Cornwall Police.

Trading Standards, assisted by the local neighbourhood policing team, located and seized more than 18,000 suspected illegal tobacco products and 2,000 illegal vapes from a rural location in South Hams.

The goods seized included a number of suspected counterfeit products, non-duty paid tobacco products and non-UK compliant vapes - the sale of these items is illegal.

Police Officers assisting Trading Standards to seize the suspected illegal items
Police Officers assisting Trading Standards to seize the suspected illegal items (Devon and Cornwall Police)

Inspector Ben Shardlow, who heads up the neighbourhood police teams in South Hams, said: ‘These illegal goods do not go through regulated safety testing and quality control procedures like the legal products that are sold in the UK do, which means we don’t know what’s in them.

‘Carrying out this proactive warrant shows great partnership working and has resulted in identifying a significant amount of illegal goods - it is positive we were able to remove a large amount from the streets and circulation.

‘I’d like to urge members of the public to report concerns to us so we can continue to disrupt illegal and criminal activity, just as we have done in the South Hams.’

Councillor Rufus Gilbert said: ‘The removal of illegal tobacco and vapes from entering the marketplace is a high priority for us, and this was yet another successful operation.

‘The service uses detection dogs during operations, so regardless of where it is hidden, in a storage container or retail premises, the dogs have the ability to sniff out even small quantities of tobacco that are hidden from view.’

‘Retail outlets that sell counterfeit and illicit tobacco are big business and these shops can undercut other local general stores who are trying to operate legally during difficult economic conditions.

‘Because the tobacco is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who are not interested in asking for proof of age, it encourages children and young people to start smoking.

‘Illegal tobacco products also present a genuine health risk above and beyond that of legal tobacco, as they aren’t subject to the same quality control checks and are often found to contain high level of contaminates.’