November 15, 2022
Hammersmith and Fulham Council said they have seized nearly 6,000 dangerous vapes since last December as part of their efforts to crack down on illegal vapes and illicit tobacco products.
The seized items, worth around £55,000, contained up to eight times more e-liquid than is allowed, or two-and-a-half times the maximum permitted nicotine, the council added,
“The health and safety of residents is our number one priority,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of the council. “These vapes are often marketed towards children and are dangerous. That’s why we’re seizing these dodgy products and will prosecute those who continue to sell them illegally.”
Illegal vapes seized by the council are either bigger than the legal maximum of two millilitres capacity or have a higher nicotine concentration than the permitted two per cent – both requirements designed as health protection measures.
The biggest vape seized in the borough was 16ml, and some have been as strong as five per cent.
In a recent Trading Standards operation two 18-year-old women were sold a vape containing 10 millilitres of e-liquid from a vape specialist store.
The illegal vape had not been displayed in the shop and was only offered when the mystery shoppers asked if the store stocked any larger sizes.
The Trading Standards officers subsequently seized 362 illegal vapes from the store.
While retailers need to check the ID of anyone they believe to be under 25 to ensure that underage sales are avoided, neither woman was asked for ID on this occasion.
Unusually, the vape specialist retailer was not asked what they thought the volunteers’ ages were until after the illegal vapes had been seized, to avoid revealing the test purchase.
In March of this year a 20-year-old mystery shopper named Theo tested retailers across Fulham and was able to buy a ‘blue sour raspberry’ flavoured vape without being asked for ID.
“I went into the shop, asked for a vape, and they didn’t ask for my age or for any proof,” Theo said. “I also asked if they had any bigger [illegal] sizes and was told that they were out of stock but would be able to get some in soon.”
Purchasers must be 18 or over to buy e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK. Stores selling age-restricted items are advised to follow the ‘Challenge 25’ rule, which requires them to ask anyone they think is under 25 for ID to prove their age.
The shop assistant told a Trading Standards officer that they had believed Theo to be ‘about 23 or 24’ years old.
The business was strongly advised to send someone to council training for retailers of age-restricted goods to help them avoid making any underage sales.
An underage test purchase will now be carried out at the store. Failing this second test is a criminal offence and will be investigated by H&F and face prosecution.