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ACS updates vaping guide to better spot illegal products

November 15, 2022

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The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has updated its Assured Advice guide on selling vapes, helping retailers to tackle the huge rise in illicit products.

The new ‘Selling Vapes Responsibly’ guide, includes information on how to recognise legitimate products, as well as the age verification policies that should be in place to ensure that products are only sold to those who are legally allowed to purchase them.

Some of the key areas highlighted in the guide include:

  • Look out for the number of puffs claimed on a disposable device. If it’s more than around 600, it’s not allowed to be on the UK market (Note: There are now legal products in the market over this limit. BEAR + Aspire R1 Hybrid Device by Eco Vape Ltd and Aspire, capable of more than 3500 puffs, is TPD compliant and listed with the MHRA)
  • Check the warnings. If they don’t cover 30% of the front and back of the pack, it’s not allowed to be on the UK market
  • Check the wording of the warnings. There’s only one phrase that’s allowed on pack warnings in the UK, which is ‘This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance’. If the warning says anything other than this, it’s not allowed to be on the UK market

In the guide, it is recommended that retailers use the successful Challenge 25 policy in store for the sale of vapes. While primarily used for alcohol and tobacco sales, ACS urges retailers to adopt Challenge25 for all age restricted sales, as it provides consistency for both colleagues and customers.

“The vaping category has grown significantly in recent years, but with this growth has come a huge increase in the number of illicit vapes that have made their way onto shelves,” James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said.

“These products are unregulated at best, and at worst extremely dangerous as they pose a fire risk through faulty battery components, as well as no controls over what is contained within the e-liquid.”

Figures from an ACS survey of Trading Standards officers across England and Wales show that almost two thirds (61%) believe they don’t have sufficient funding to tackle the illicit vaping and tobacco market.

Lowman continued: “Through our updated vaping guide, retailers have all the tools they need to spot illicit products and report them to their local Trading Standards enforcement team, but this must be accompanied by additional resources provided to enforcement officers to tackle the problem effectively.”

Recently, TechStream Group has designed and published vapeclick, a public database of all legally listed vape products in the UK. The website consolidates the entire MHRA dataset into an easily searchable format.

The ACS guide is part of its Assured Advice scheme, which is backed by Surrey and Buckinghamshire Trading Standards. Assured Advice means that if you follow the guidance, your in-store procedures must be respected by enforcement officers wherever you are in England in Wales. This is especially useful for businesses with stores in multiple local authority areas, where interpretations of the law may vary significantly.