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Stock genuine as crackdown unearths huge hauls of illegal vapes

January 29, 2022


Recent raids by trading standards officers have led to seizure of  illegal vape products from stores across the country. In Livepool, during a recent test purchasing exercise across the city, officers were able to buy illegal products from 74 retailers – some containing up to 3,500 puffs, almost six times above the legal limit.

Liverpool City Council told Vape Business they suspect that most of the retailers are buying illicit vape products from white van retailers.

During the test purchase, products from three leading vape brands Geek, Elf, and Elux were found. The council said, “These are all genuine products that are available to buy but we suspect most are counterfeit.”

The council has also been receiving a large number of complaints about the sale of these products to children and is asking parents with information and evidence to contact them.

Now they are offering the retail trade the opportunity to contact trading standards for advice on their products with the provision that compliance visits will be carried out in the New Year and any illegal products still on sale will be seized.

“The retailers are all receiving letters prior to any enforcement detailing how they can check or they can contact us and we will provide guidance. Follow-up compliance visits will take place once all guidance letters have gone out,” said the council.

Councillor Abdul Qadir, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said in a statment, “E-cigarettes and vaping products are seen by many people as a way of giving up smoking.

“Our worrying research shows that people are unknowingly exposing themselves to far more nicotine than they would from using cigarettes, meaning they are even worse for their health.

“Our advice to people buying these products is to always check that the packaging has all of the appropriate warnings on it so that they can be confident they are not exposing themselves to far greater levels of toxic substances than is allowed under the law.

“We are also going to be carrying out enforcement operations early in the new year, so it is really important that retailers check they are buying legal stock they will find themselves out of pocket if we have to seize illegal products, and could be liable for prosecution.

“We will also be making sure that they are only selling to people over the age of 18 as we are aware of concern from parents that they are being sold to children.”

Vaping devices are highly regulated by the government to control the amount of nicotine available and have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).They should contain no more than 2 per cent nicotine or hold more than two millilitres of liquid, equivalent to 600 puffs or a packet of cigarettes.

On the issue of counterfeit vaping products available in the market, Gillian Golden, chief executive of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) told Vape Business that the association has been working with both manufacturers and authorities on tackling the sales of counterfeit products for some time now.

“Our Members and Associate Members are supported through our Trading Standards Primary Authority partnership,” she said.

“Retailing vape products comes with responsibilities and one of those is to make sure products can be legally sold in the UK. The easiest way to ensure this is to only deal with responsible suppliers with a good reputation and to check that the products have been notified to the MHRA.

She noted that any device claiming life of more than 600 puffs is unlikely to meet the regulatory requirements.

“The IBVTA provides guidance for retailing vape products, and we’re happy to assist with any queries a retailer might have. Legal versions of flavoured and brightly coloured disposable e-cigarettes are widely available in our members’ shops and wholesale from distributors that are also IBVTA members. They are sold to adults as an alternative to smoking, We encourage all retailers to put rigorous age verification processes in place, and to monitor them by formal recording procedures and audits,” Golden added.

Earlier this month, vaping brand Geek Bar launched a campaign to raise awareness among retailers to tackle the business of counterfeit and non-compliant vaping products in the UK market.

Geek Bar came up with a leaflet that will accompany all Geek Bar products heading to the UK from this month. The leaflet will detail the company’s measures to combat the counterfeit and non-compliant vape market. It is also being sent to all local authority trading standards teams across the UK.

The leaflet says, “Geek Bar takes its responsibility to its customers very seriously. It has come to our attention that there are counterfeit products on the market, claiming to be genuine Geek Bar vapes.”

“We also want to remind our customers that all vaping products can only be purchased by over 18-year-olds for use by adults only.”

The leaflet also tells retailers and customers to verify their Geek Bar vapes at their website http://www.geekbar.com/ where they can input the unique serial number and instantly identify whether it is a genuine product.

The news comes a week after it was reported that the brand has approached Billy Rahman, managing director at vape manufacturer iBreathe, to act as a consultant for Geek Bar and establish a primary authority arrangement with his local council, Oldham in Greater Manchester, to help tackle sales of illegal vape products.

Meanwhile, Geek Bar has published a list of approved UK distributors and is also said to be in the process of warning all non-official Geek Bar social media sites that they must cease to continue under the Geek Bar name.

Retailers and distributors can report suspected counterfeit and non-compliant products at [email protected] and the company is incentivising retailers to report counterfeits or products that do not comply with UK regulations.

Watch out for non-compliant products

Reports of seizure of illegal vape products have been pouring in from all over the country. The largest haul was at a former takeaway outlet in Newcastle in November and was worth more than £190,000. Items have also been seized in raids in Aberdeen, North Lanarkshire and South Ayrshire in Scotland, Stockton-on-Tees, Halton, Walsall, Cherwell in Oxfordshire, Cheltenham and Cirencester in Gloucestershire, and parts of Kent.

At the start of 2022, illegal vaping products targeting children were seized in a major Middlesbrough-wide crackdown.The six-week operation by Middlesbrough Council’s Trading Standards team has seen thousands of potentially dangerous devices removed from sale.Many had brightly coloured packaging and with flavours and names such as strawberry or banana milkshake, unicorn shake and tiger blood to appeal to children and young people.

During the crackdown, the trading standards team have been told that retailers are being approached by “mobile sellers who are selling the e-cigarettes from vans”. Products removed from the sale include brands Elf, Solaz, Voopoo, Elux 3500 puffs, Hipster Glow 2000 puffs and Hipster 2600 puffs, which are illegal in relation to their design, labelling, and nicotine content, the council said, adding that many are also not registered with the MHRA, while others were found to be counterfeit.

Whereas, in Darlington, police issued a warning after e-cigarettes and vapes were sold to children under the age of 12. According to the regulation, it is illegal to sell nicotine inhaling products and refills widely known as e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, and it is also illegal for anyone to purchase them on their behalf.

All tobacco products including e-cigarettes and vape products must comply with stringent tobacco control laws that require products and their packaging to comply with specific labelling including health warnings and product controls.

There is growing evidence of illicit and inappropriately branded vaping products hitting the UK market in the trending disposable vape sector. Last year, an investigation by the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has found that there is a significant amount of non-compliant products entering the UK and being sold in particular by convenience shops and on major online marketplaces.

The disposable vape sector has enjoyed a significant revival in the last couple of years, appealing as an entry point for adult smokers looking to quit conventional cigarettes. However, the UKVIA investigation has identified that illegal products re-entering the UK market. The problem lies with some distributors who are flouting UK regulations and managing to get these products imported into the country and sell them onto traders and retailers; as well as a lack of proper scrutiny on major online marketplaces.

Disposable vapes are pre-filled with e-liquids and cost around £6 each. While the UK regulations mean they should contain no more than 20mg/ml of nicotine (also referred to as 2 per cent), evidence collected by the UKVIA reveals that some listed as containing higher concentrations of nicotine, with some products being openly sold with 50mg/ml strength. Furthermore, product packaging is found to be not including warnings about the nicotine content, which is a legal requirement.

Trading standards at different locations have been regularly investigating the sales of illicit vape products and underage sales of e-cigarettes. Retailers are advised to comply with the regulatory norms and check for the products that have been notified with MHRA.