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Shop which sold illegal vapes to children in Taunton closed down

Photo of illegal cigarettes and tobacco seized by officers and Trading Standards.

A closure order has been successfully obtained for a second store in Taunton which was selling vapes and drug paraphernalia to children as well as counterfeit and illegal tobacco.

We worked with the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service to apply for a closure against the European Shop in North Street, which was granted by magistrates at Taunton Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (18 July).

Two officers outside the European Shop after the closure order was enforced. The store has been boarded up.

In December, a closure order had also been obtained for the Mini Market in High Street.

Following an investigation, police and Trading Standards attended the European Shop and carried out a search of the property. One employee was found working in a small fabricated building on the roof of the building, which had a hatch kept in place by a magnet, which could be lifted to deliver items directly into the store. Inside this building were 2,433 packets of illegal cigarette and 323 pouches of illegal tobacco, worth an estimated £15,300. A quantity of non-compliant vapes were also seized.

A photo showing the hatch used to deliver the illegal products down into the main store.

Magistrates granted the closure order for three months after being informed what the joint investigation had found, including:

  • Counterfeit and illegal vapes and tobacco were being sold with no health warnings, as required by UK law. A total of £28,000 worth were seized from the premises overall.
  • Vapes and drug paraphernalia were being sold to children.
  • Anti-social behaviour was a problem in the local area caused by people who’d bought goods from the premises, which was negatively impacting on nearby businesses and their customers. This included groups of younger people who were buying vape products.
  • More than £1,500 worth of damage was caused to an unmarked police car during the most recent raid.

Cerwyn Pritchard, Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinator at Avon and Somerset Police, said: “This was a shocking and blatant attempt to sell counterfeit and illegal cigarettes, tobacco and vaping products to the public, including children.

“The illicit activities at this store were having a significant impact on the local community with reports of anti-social behaviour and intimidation.

“We worked closely with our Trading Standards partners to build a strong and compelling case for a closure order, to help put an end to the corrosive impact this store was having on the neighbourhood.

“We’re pleased the court has granted this order and we won’t hesitate to take similar action against any other business owners acting in this way.”

Sharon Anderson, Group Manager Investigations and Compliance, Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said: “Tobacco and vape enforcement is one of our top priorities due to the huge increase in vaping we’ve seen over the last few years.

“Vapes help smokers to kick the habit; but unfortunately, the bright colours and sweet flavours also attract young people and even children and that’s why it is essential store owners remain vigilant when selling these products.

“Illegal vapes, such as those seized during visits like this, have an additional public health risk.

“Often they have excessively high levels of nicotine, over the limits set by law and this makes them highly addictive and potentially harmful to a person’s health.

“We will continue to work in partnership with Avon and Somerset Police to carry out test purchases on a regular basis.”

If you can help, please complete our online appeals form.

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