Upcoming: Vape Business Award TBC
Home News New report reveals ‘concerning lack of prosecutions for illicit vape sales

New report reveals ‘concerning lack of prosecutions for illicit vape sales

June 8, 2023

Illegal vapes seized from a store in Plymouth (Photo: Devon County Council)

A forthcoming report, based on Freedom Of Information (FOI) data, has revealed a staggering lack of regulatory enforcement against rogue vape traders.

According to the data gathered by Arcus Compliance, just two successful prosecutions were made against illicit vape traders across six major UK cities between 2021 and April 2023.

Less than £2,500 in penalties – the maximum for one offender – was issued to retailers for underage/illicit sales in the same cities over the same time period. The highest total amount of fines given out across these same cities – which have a shared population of almost three million people – over the same time period was £1,878.

The report, which is due to be released in full later this month, also covers the activity of trading standards teams in individual London Boroughs. Of the five councils to respond so far, there was one reported successful prosecution and one fine of £1,000.

Robert Sidebottom

Robert Sidebottom, managing director of Arcus Compliance, said the ‘concerning lack’ of prosecutions and penalties shown by this data demonstrates that the ‘system is in serious distress’.

“Trading standards have been crying out for additional resources and support for some time and there’s no doubt as to why – without enough boots on the ground, too many rogue traders are getting past thinly spread enforcement officials,” he said.

“It’s staggering to see just how few prosecutions there have been and how low the levels of fines are given the huge amount of concern over youth and illicit vaping. We know that trading standards departments want and need to be doing more.”

Sidebottom added that the government’s recent £3 million funding for a dedicated vape task force is a ‘far cry’ from the final solution, calling for more intervention.

He questioned whether actions like fines, prosecutions and product seizures were being tracked properly as cases continue to crop up in the media but didn’t seem to translate to the FOI feedback.

He also asked whether there were regional teams specifically tackling illicit vape trade or whether forces were spread across other age restricted areas like alcohol as well and suggested it might be time for a more focused approach.

Commenting on the findings, John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA, said: “Although prosecutions and penalties are very much key weapons in our arsenal against cowboy sellers, they mean very little if trading standards don’t have the resources to pursue them – the government must take this new data very seriously.”