Published: 00:01, 09 July 2014
The full toll of 'legal highs' packets seized in raids has now been released - with nearly 1,900 discovered in shops allegedly selling the substances in Kent.
Officers from Kent County Council’s trading standards and police targeted 20 shops on Monday as part of their efforts to crack down on the items.
The visits resulted in 424 sample packets of the controversial substances being taken away for testing.
Depending on the results the authorities will be issuing appropriate action, which is still yet to be decided.
In addition to the legal highs taken away, officers sealed up 1,443 duplicate packets in store and banned shopkeepers from selling them.
The action follows a letter sent recently by the consumer protection department to all stores suspected of selling the legal drugs, with the potential to kill.
It called on them to stop selling the items while also explaining how they are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs.
While officers swooped at shops in 15 parts of Kent, overall Maidstone had the highest number of seized items.
After visits to three of the town’s stores, 133 items were taken away, while 501 were left ‘bagged and banned’ – resulting in over a third of the total number of legal highs seized across the county.
The action, which is thought to be the first operation of its kind in the UK, follows widespread anger and concern that the substances are being sold on Kent’s high streets.
Figures show legal highs were linked to 68 deaths in England and Wales in 2012. It is also believed they have caused at least one death in the county.
Alongside police and trading standards, the government are also analysing the role of the substances and the risks they pose.
A review was launched last December which could lead to sweeping changes to the UK’s drug laws. A conclusion is due to be delivered this summer.
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