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Kent is legal highs capital - with stores selling over-the-counter drugs equalling London

By Kiran Kaur

Kent now has more shops selling legal highs than almost anywhere else in the country, it's been revealed.

Earlier this year we revealed how only Greater London had more stores peddling the potentially lethal - but legal - over-the-counter substances.

Now Kent County Council's trading standards team has revealed we equal Greater London, despite having a population that's a fraction of the size of Britain's largest city.

A user smokes a legal high. Picture: Library image
A user smokes a legal high. Picture: Library image

The team claims there are 17 stores peddling the products.

Figures shows there were 68 deaths linked to the substances in 2012, with at least one known fatality in Kent.

Mark Rolfe, KCC’s trading standards manager, said: “When you consider the population in Greater London compared to the population in Kent we are definitely overserved by these kinds of shops.

“It’s not a competition. It’s just the fact that these things are freely available in Kent and they really shouldn’t be because they’re dangerous and people will die.”

Trading standards bosses are concerned people in the county are increasingly unaware of the damage caused by what they have dubbed ‘lethal highs’.

Mr Rolfe said: “These products are really dangerous. They’re not legal in terms of what we would normally expect from a product that you would either consume or put on your skin like a bath salt.

“Nobody knows what impact they will have on the body when you take them.

"They are drugs, they are dangerous, and we would encourage people to steer well clear of them and we would like shops in Kent that currently peddle these products to stop.”

The warning follows action from officers who carried out raids across 14 so-called head shops in the county this morning.

A shop suspected of selling legal highs
A shop suspected of selling legal highs

The stores targeted represent four-fifths of all those trading standards believe are selling legal highs.

The owners were previously sent letters telling them to stop selling the substances. They were also offered the opportunity to return or destroy them.

“They’re not legal, they’re not safe and they really should be avoided" - Mark Rolfe

Mr Rolfe hopes the raids will help ensure Kent no longer tops the league of shame for selling legal highs in the UK.

He said: “Clearly what we would like to see is that none of these shops sell these products on the high streets of Kent and that actually people, wider than just the retail community, understand that these things are dangerous.

He added: “They’re not legal, they’re not safe and they really should be avoided.”

The substances seized from the stores are now being sent for tests.

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