Businesses suspected of selling illicit tobacco, vapes and counterfeit goods have been inspected in a joint operation by KCC Trading Standards and the Maidstone Town Center Task Force.

On Wednesday August 17, 2022, four downtown stores were targeted in Week Street, Lower Stone Street and Knightrider Street.

Total seizures included more than 15,000 cigarettes, nearly seven kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco and 1,025 vapes. Some of the items had been concealed and at one location a large quantity of tobacco was recovered from bins at the rear of the premises.

Teams were also on the lookout for counterfeit goods and at one of the businesses officers recovered more than 1,300 items including phone accessories, watches, jewelry and clothing.

Oliver Jewell, KCC’s Senior Trading Standards Manager, said: “Trading Standards has worked with local retailers to advise them on disposable vaping devices, but has identified a small number of retailers who continue to sell illegal vapes. These have not been put through the stringent safety measures that we have to ensure that these products are as safe as possible as an alternative to smoking.

“Illegal tobacco brings crime to your neighborhood and is affordable for young people and for those who would otherwise use the price as an incentive to quit.

“We will continue to work with partner agencies to target stores that consistently sell one or the other product and will look at all the means at our disposal to ensure a safe shopping street.”

Inspector Dave Crompton, of the Maidstone Community Safety Unit, said: “As part of our ongoing work against organized crime groups, my officers regularly work with the Trading Standards teams to identify businesses that may be involved in illegal activities, such as money laundering and human trafficking.

“We also target premises selling illicit tobacco and counterfeit products, as they often attract anti-social behavior and other criminal activity. The businesses are also having a detrimental impact on legitimate local traders and our inspections will continue while the trading standards investigation is ongoing.

Shops selling illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously on 0300 999 6 999 or by visiting www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk

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