Press release published on behalf of the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service.
Trading Standards and police have closed a second store in Taunton which was selling vapes and drug paraphernalia to children, as well as counterfeit and illegal tobacco.
Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service (HoTSW TS) worked with Avon and Somerset Police to apply for a closure against the European Shop in North Street, which was granted at Taunton Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (18 July).
In December, a closure order had also been obtained for the Quickstop Mini Market in High Street.
Following an investigation which led us to discover two concealments of illegal tobacco, HoTSW TS joined police to search the European Shop.
An employee was found working in a small, fabricated building on the roof of the building, which led to 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.
Magistrates granted the closure order for three months after being informed of what the joint investigation had found, and that vapes and drug paraphernalia were being sold to children and that anti-social behaviour was a problem in the local area.
The anti-social behaviour was being 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.
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 that 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.”
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.”