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Illegal vapes flood the market: How to spot duff products

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There has been a rise in the number of illegal vape products, while concerns mount over their marketing and sale to children, Trading Standards reveals.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has seen a surge in the number of illegal vaping products by specialist shops, mobile phone and corner shops as well as convenience stores and over the past year.

In fact, it has seized more than 1.4 million tonnes of illegal vapes in the last six months of 2022 in the North East of England alone.

Officers across teams in England and Wales also reported a significant rise in underage vape sales last year, with concerns that some are designed specifically to appeal to children and young people.

It found packaging and flavours imitating popular confectionary brands such as Skittles, with sales making their way into the hands of children as young as 12.

The CTSI said it is “keen to emphasis that vaping poses far less risk than smoking, which remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in the UK”, adding that nicotine vaping is “one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking”.

However, it is calling on vape shop retailers to “act responsibly” and to ensure they comply with the law when selling these products to prevent over-regulation or a ban of these alternatives.

Vapes and e-cigarettes are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which requires that they have tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml; a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml; and their labels display manufacturer details and health warnings.

Refill containers are restricted to a maximum capacity of 10ml, certain ingredients including colourings, caffeine and taurine are banned, and nicotine-containing products or their packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-evident.

Trading Standards said many of the devices seized flout these rules, while test purchases have also been carried out by children.

Risk of ban or over-regulation

Kate Pike, tobacco control lead for Trading Standards, North West, said: “It is not surprising that Trading Standards officers are concerned about shops selling illegal vapes and selling to children, as we have seen a big increase in reports from the public.

“It’s important we support retailers to ensure that products are sold responsibly to smokers looking to quit their dangerous habit and take action if retailers flout the law. If we don’t, there’s a risk that products could be banned or over-regulated, leaving smokers without the option of a product which carries a fraction of the risks of smoking and is an extremely effective aid to quitting.”

CTSI chief executive, John Herriman, added: “Trading Standards teams are doing vital work by cracking down on the unscrupulous retailers who are selling these products to young people without the legally required age verification checks. It is important that vaping products comply with rules that were established to safeguard public health, and that they do not end up in the hands of children.”

Related: Smoking and e-cigarettes can double the cost of life insurance

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