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UKVIA updates its guidance on preventing underage sales

March 2, 2023


The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has updated its guide to retailers on preventing underage sales amidst the increasing scrutiny on youth vaping.

John Dunne, UKVIA director general, said tackling the sale of vaping products to minors was “one of the most fundamental challenges facing the industry”.

“The entire UKVIA membership is united behind the message that we must do all in our power to stop underage sales,” Dunne commented. “This is one battle that we simply have to win but we need the support of the government, regulators and enforcement authorities in order to do so.”

Freely available on the UKVIA website, the 20-page guide is written in plain English, without any confusing jargon, and has been developed in partnership with the association’s primary authority partners, Buckinghamshire and Surrey and Trading Standards.

“Our Underage Sales Guide will give retailers all the information they need so that they don’t inadvertently sell to someone under 18,” Dunne said.

“Policy makers, politicians and consumers must have confidence that the vaping industry is a responsible sector and this will be undermined if businesses do not implement and uphold robust age verification processes.

“The guide gives clear advice on how to implement a ‘Challenge 25’ policy and why it is important that anyone who appears to be younger than 25 should be asked to provide ID.”

The updated guide explains how to keep on the right side of UK equality legislation when conducting ID checks (by not refusing to accept all foreign passports or ID cards for example) and strongly advises retailers to maintain a ‘Refusals Register’ of each time a sale is denied on age grounds.

It also shows the signs to spot ‘proxy purchasing’, where adults try and buy vaping products for children; how to properly examine ID by using a six-step checklist and also covers areas including online age verification, digital ID and staff training needed to prevent underage sales.

Dunne reiterated the call for severe penalties for those retailers who engage in the sales of illegal vape products.

“This guide will go a long way to ensuring that responsible retailers – who make up the vast majority of vape retailers in the UK – do not inadvertently sell to minors,” he said. “But this alone is not enough, which is why we want unscrupulous retailers who knowingly sell to young people to face the full force of the law.

“We need sufficient funding for robust nationwide enforcement of the law from Trading Standards departments, backed up by fines of up to £10,000 per instance, so that selling to minors is just simply not worth the risk.”

While it is illegal to sell vaping products to under 18s anywhere in the UK, there are slightly different regulations for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and these are set out in the updated guide.

The UKVIA added that it is creating a retailer pack that will include downloadable assets to help prevent underage sale in association with Citizencard. These include posters, Challenge 25 badges and a refusal register amongst other useful tools.