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Retailers to see much closer scrutiny following Khan Review, warns expert

June 22, 2022

Unsafe vapes seized from a shop in Aberdeen (Photo: Aberdeen Council)

An expert adviser on the regulatory regime around vapes has on Tuesday warned that convenience stores and other retailers must expect much closer scrutiny in the wake of the Khan Review into smoking.

All eyes are on the vaping sector since Dr Javed Khan urged the government to embrace vaping as the most effective tool to help people quit smoking.

Dr Khan cautioned that vapes are not a ‘silver bullet’ and not totally risk-free but pointed out that the alternative is far worse. Yet the review raised concerns about vapes falling into the hands of minors and its publication coincided with media reports on the negative health experiences of users of vape disposables.

Lee Bryan, managing director of Arcus Compliance Ltd, noted that full regulatory compliance is critically important across the supply chain, with smaller convenience stores being particularly vulnerable.

“These shops lack the knowledge and capacity to make the necessary checks for vaping products that do not meet the regulations. Vapes are just one of many product lines on their shelves,” he said.

“However, it’s not just the retailers that need to get their business in order when it comes to compliance of vape products but wholesalers and distributors further up the chain.”

Bryan has listed some steps that retailers, wholesalers and distributors can take to ensure products don’t get sold to minors and that they do not trade in non-UK compliant and counterfeit products:

  • check the products have been registered with and approved and published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Alternatively check on Vape-Click, a new digital platform, to speed up checks
  • check that the product incorporates a UK batch number
  • retailers and wholesalers should ask their distributor for a copy of the compliance file that they have in place with the disposable vape manufacturer to check they are authorised to sell in the UK
  • make sure that any details on identified hazards within the content of the product are communicated effectively to consumers on the packaging and that they state these are in line with the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulations. This means the disposable vape manufacturer has carried out classification and labelling checks on the products you have purchased
  • ensure that the packaging makes it very clear that the products are only for sale to those who are 18 or over
  • if still in doubt about the authenticity of the products you’ve purchased, some disposable manufacturers allow you to check the security code which is clearly visible on the packaging. Geek Bar, for example has an online facility for retail outlets to do this
  • download the UK Vaping Industry Association guide for disposable vape retailers. In the UK, disposable vapes should contain no more than 20mg/ml of nicotine nor have above 2ml liquid capacity. The permissible ingredients and formulations of flavours are also closely regulated.
Lee Bryan

Bryan, who makes regulatory filings on behalf of vaping industry clients, added: “As in any regulated market there is bound to be misunderstanding in some cases and that’s certainly the case with vaping. Often it boils down to a lack of understanding.

“In a fast-growing market, the consumer is now more knowledgeable and not so reliant on purchasing from specialist vape stores.

“Convenience stores have become extremely popular for vapers. Some of the chains have internal compliance departments but they can’t be absolutely sure that products they are bringing in are 100% compliant.

“It is more than likely that we can expect more sophisticated enforcement coming down the line with the introduction of retail licences to trade in vape products and minimum £10,000 per instance fines for breaking vaping laws. And this isn’t being led by the government but the vaping industry as it can see that there is major opportunity for a responsible vape sector to play a pivotal role in the smokefree ambitions of the Government.”

Arcus Compliance represents some of major global brands in the UK and Europe, and in some cases also in the Middle East and the US. The service ranges from a base-line level of compliance for the UK to providing a full outsourced compliance department.