On-the-spot fines, swifter premises closure orders and a ‘robust licensing scheme’ are some of the tactics proposed as part of a discussion on illegal vape sales by Peter Gibson MP during a Westminster Hall Debate this week.
The debate saw a general cross-party consensus that there needs to be increased regulations and licensing on the vaping industry, as Mark Eastwood MP put it “the legal vaping industry, like any other industry, needs protecting from criminal activity and illegal competition”.
Addressing the MPs, Peter Gibson MP said, “We need to see a nationwide awareness campaign on illegal vapes for both adults and children. We need to see much-increased awareness in our schools of the safeguarding risks to young people posed by the sale and supply of these products.
“I would like to see all vape products in plain packaging and out of sight, just like tobacco. We need to fully explore a robust licensing system for both vapes and tobacco. We need greater collaboration on intelligence between our very small trading standards departments and police forces across the country.
“We need on-the-spot fines, set at punitive rates, to tackle the sale of these illegal vapes and tobaccos, and we need to see swifter premises closure orders.”
Gibson also stated that local independent corner shops in his constituency Darlington are reporting massive drop in tobacco sales which is both due to massive decline in smoking as well as trade shifting to “illegal sales in newly popped-up competition”, which is robbing trade from legitimate traders.
“Together with the footfall that tobacco sales bring to those shops and the massive loss in revenue, one retailer I visited estimates that his store is collecting nearly £200,000 less duty and VAT because of the sale of illegal tobacco.
Gibson added that the most important aspect of this debate is the organised crime behind the illegal supply and sale of these products.
“We have evidence locally that the funding for these shops is rooted in organised crime and money laundering. We know that, besides being supplied with illegal tobacco and vapes, children are being used as mules to fetch and carry the illegal products, which are stored off site rather than on the shop premises, or to act as agents by selling the vapes to their friends in the school playground,” he said.