Data leads the industry calling for a stronger crackdown and tighter restrictions, as the number of illegal vapes seized is similar to the ‘illicit cigarettes trade’.
Heathrow airport has been dubbed a ‘hotbed’ for those aiming to import illegal vapes into the capital, as a little over 850,000 (856,780) units of vapes were seized last year by the London Borough of Hillingdon.
Across London last year, the supply of illegal vapes was enough for unscrupulous traders to sell two every minute. There were just under 1 million units of illegal vapes seized by the local borough trading standards, according to the latest data, obtained by Vape Club using a Freedom of Information request.
The findings raise concerns about the potentially dangerous illegal vapes entering the capital and wider UK at the borders. These range from products that do not comply with UK regulations and have not been through the appropriate testing to ensure safety, to counterfeits of popular brands.
The vaping industry is calling for stronger clampdowns, regulation enforcement, and for illegal vaping products to be treated as seriously as counterfeit cigarettes. For the first time ever, the number of illegal vapes seized in London last year began to approach the number of counterfeit cigarettes, of which 1.06 million units were seized off the streets
The Borough of Croyden was found to be the capital's hotspot for fake cigarettes, with 661,625 seized last year. This was followed by the Borough of Newham with 343,240.
Recent raids by Westminster City Council supported by a UKVIA representative on Oxford Street confiscated items with a value of £145,000, including 2381 vape pens estimated to be up to four times the legal tank size limit. Products that are giving the legitimate vaping industry, and those promoting safe and legal use, cause concern.
Commenting on recent raids, Cllr Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council says:
“Over the past 15 months, we have now seized more than £1m in items from super strength vapes to designer fakes. That is an astonishing amount of fake and potentially dangerous items taken off the streets of the West End.
We are dealing here with a sophisticated and determined rack that exploits UK legal loopholes to trade from shop lets… however, as a local authority, we can only do so much. The biggest issue enabling unscrupulous traders is the fact they are usually run by shell companies with fictitious directors.”
Dan Marchant, Director of the UK’s largest vaping retailer, Vape Club, says:
“Illicit vaping products have the potential to be dangerous to the user's health. We’d advise steering clear of any retailer you’re unsure of, and stick to reputable retailers. An illegal vape can sometimes be spotted by the product description, specifically the number of puffs being advertised. Under UK law the maximum volume of e-liquid that can legally be in a vape product is 2ml, which will at the very most equate to around 500-600 puffs. Any product claiming to be more than this is usually a reliable indication that the product is not legal and has not been through the appropriate testing and safety measures.
“The responsible side of the industry is literally begging for the authorities to enforce the regulations and take serious action against the businesses flouting the rules. What’s needed is a licensing scheme, so proper age verification tests can be applied to every retailer. And there must be higher fines, applied to every breach, for the rogue sellers. The UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) is calling for the fines to be raised to at least £10,000, which would be a real deterrent."