April 3, 2023
By Kiran Paul
Vaping, particularly of the disposable kind, has been under attack left, right and centre. It is not uncommon to see terms like ‘epidemic’ and ‘public health catastrophe’ in the mainstream media headlines, when referring to the concern around the teenage use. Environmental waste generated by the disposable vapes is also becoming a major concern. Then, there is the issue of non-compliant vapes, which flout the legal limits for the nicotine content, and according to the trading stands, are ‘flooding’ the UK market.
While all these are legitimate concerns, which would obviously require a collaborative effort to tackle, the voice of the retailers is often missing in this debate, and as we spoke to them, it is clear they have also some legitimate concerns over several solutions recommended by public health campaigners and politicians.
There have been calls for banning single-use vapes, cigarette like display restrictions and plain packaging for vapes and a tax on disposables, among others. And Girish Jeeva, who runs the Premier Barmulloch store in Glasgow, and the Vape Convenience Retailer of the Year winner at the 2022 Asian Trader Awards, is a worried retailer.
“To be honest, if they bring in the rules banning it or even closing the curtains on them, just like how they’re doing with cigarettes, I feel like it will have a big impact, because what brings and what drives the sales for us, is the display that we have on the shop floor,” he explains.
His store showcases its vape offering in a beautifully merchandised three-metre display, and the fixture was especially commended for its hygienic presentation and its flawless merchandising.
“Having to sacrifice that and closing vape, like cigarettes, will obviously decrease the sales for us. It will be very difficult to handle,” he adds.
Girish says he completely disagrees with the proposals to ban disposable vapes, and even suspects it as a means to shore up the tax revenues.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are some negative factors in terms of kids coming into vapes, because they think it’s cool to just vape even though they are not smokers, I get that. But I think government is just using that reason, so they can make the money again on cigarettes,” he asserts.
At the Premier Gosport store in Hampshire, Imtiyaz Mamode is wondering over the irony of a ban on vapes, while cigarettes are allowed to sell!
While agreeing that teenage use is a concern, he notes that they often get the vapes from adults who are close: friends, siblings, or even parents.
“I think if the parents or their friends or family don’t help, then it will be fine for the youngsters,” he comments, adding that a tax, or making the product expensive, is not going to work, citing the example of cigarettes.
“The price of the cigarette is too high. And the government only wants tax. It doesn’t matter how much expensive you make it, they will still buy and still smoke cigarettes,” he says.
Imtiyaz also thinks that a ban is not going to be effective on the ground. “I don’t think they can ban the vapes easily, because even now they only allow a 600-puffs vapes in the store, but I know many shops nearby sell around 2000 to 12,000-puffs products. And trading standard don’t care about that,” he points out.
And, this is something the trading standards body, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, has also concurred on recently. In a statement earlier this month, expressing its concern over the volume of non-compliant vapes in circulation, the CTSI has called for “more boots on the ground” to help enforce regulations, and advise businesses, as they are currently spread very thinly enforcing laws on a range of issues from food standards to product safety.
Over at Scotland, where ‘vape crusader’ Laura Young launched a campaign over the growing litter menace of disposable vapes, a leading retailer has responded by setting up a recycling point for vapes in his store.
Mo Razzaq, shop owner from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire who also serves as the national deputy vice president of the Federation of Independent Retailers, says they are pushing the vape industry to address the issue.
“Under the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Regulations, any electrical product manufacturer is supposed to provide recycling for that product. Unfortunately, the vape industry has not done so. And we are now pushing for the industry to do something about it. But in the meantime, what we’ve done is we’ve made our own recycling of vapes,” he told Vape Business.
Mo says ‘there’s a problem’ around vapes just now, but he thinks the way to resolve this is get the industry and retailers together.
“I think it’s a very slapdash reaction, a very lazy reaction to just add legislation and think that problems are gonna go away,” he says. “If they start making vapes very difficult to sell, for instance banning or anything like that, well, what’s gonna happen is it’s just gonna get organized organized crime into the industry. And I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
He urges the government to sit down with businesses and explore ways to work together to address the concerns and find solutions.
“Vaping is a product that helps you fight the addiction of tobacco. If you make it difficult for people to sell, then it’s going to be more difficult for people who want to give up tobacco. The tobacco consumptio is on the decline. So what everyone’s doing is working,” he points out.
In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.