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One million illegal vapes seized at London’s ports and borders

November 4, 2022

Illegal tobacco seized in Newham crackdown (Photo: Newham Council)

London’s Ports and Borders team at Heathrow has seized over one million vaping devices in the last five months.

Officers said the intercepted goods were destined for various retailers and wholesalers around the capital and further afield, adding that the issue could still be in its infancy.

“With oversized vapes now being established, we may see a shift towards the goods being imported via sea freight, as transportation costs are cheaper,” said Phil Jenkins, London’s product safety lead. “Unfortunately, container freight also mean more bulk can be imported, meaning the market may still be in its infancy.”

He continued: “Manchester Trading Standards are reporting vapes that are 20,000 puffs, which are in excess of 30 times the permitted legal limit, if we assume 600 puffs to nominally equate to the legal tank size of 2ml.”

Hillingdon and Ealing ports and borders team, along with the Trading Standards units from both authorities, have engaged in seeking out illegal vapes in both boroughs. One area that has seen productive results has been joint work with Border Force at the port.

The officers noted that it is much more productive stopping illegal goods at source – the port – than it is to try and ferret them out in hundreds of small shops and market stalls.

To date the ports team have stopped over one million illegal and oversize vapes from entering the country. The information received from this work has been passed on to inland authorities, where subsequent targeted action has taken place.

“We are also working in close contact with the regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, in order to further target illegal vapes and to try and achieve market compliance,” added Jenkins.

Business Advice

In support of retailers, London Trading Standards is providing the following information for when they may be purchasing items for them to sell from wholesalers;

  • When buying Vapes and 10ml e-liquids you should expect to be given a detailed line by line invoice or receipt listing separately all the different flavours you have bought.
  • Wholesalers giving invoices/ receipts that just say ‘mixed vapes’ should be avoided.
  • Don’t accept from callers to your shop a display system and products on a sale or return basis especially if the supplier does not give you any paperwork to say who they are.
  • Don’t forget that a x10 pack as well as the vape and e-liquids must have this and only this health warning on the front and back “This product contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.” If the wording starts with the word “WARNING” the product is likely to have been made for another country and be non-complaint with UK law.
  • If the price is lower than normal ask why and be suspicious of the seller if no clear answer is provided.
  • If in doubt don’t buy, report any suspicious salespeople or wholesalers to your local trading standards service.
  • If you buy non-complaint products they stand a high risk of been seized by enforcement staff.
  • Fake products often have spelling mistakes in the instructions printed on the packaging – use of a magnifying glass helps to spot this.
  • If the vapes of different flavours have the same ECID number they are likely to be fake.
  • Some fake vapes may have one flavour printed on the front of the packaging and a different one on the rear.