Geek Bar launches new online platform to help vape retailers tackle illegal trading

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Leading disposable vape manufacturer Geek Bar has launched a new online platform to help vape traders, including retailers, wholesalers and distributors, keep on the right side of the law when it comes to supplying and selling disposable vapes.

The initiative, VapeWatch, comes as the industry is under increased scrutiny for rising underage sales of disposable vapes and challenged by UK non-compliant products and counterfeits entering the country.

In July statistics published by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) revealed that current vaping among children 11-17 was up from 4 per cent in 2020 to 7 per cent in 2022. The proportion of children who admit ever having tried vaping has also risen from 14 per cent in 2020 to 16 per cent in 2022.

There has also been a large number of raids on retailers across the country selling vape products that do not meet UK regulations or have been supplied from the black market.

“Whilst the ASH study found that 92 per cent of under 18s who’ve never smoked, have also never vaped, and only 2 per cent have vaped more frequently than once or twice, worryingly there is this upward trend of U18 year olds getting their hands on disposable vapes. Likewise, there are too many instances of raids taking place on rogue retailers who are breaking the law. All those involved in the production, supply and sale of disposable vapes must do all they can to ensure these trends and developments are reversed as soon as possible,” Allen Yang, chief executive at Geek Bar, commented.

“VapeWatch provides all the information for retailers, wholesalers and distributors to do the right thing. And if they don’t, it provides the tools to empower parents and schools to take action against those vape traders acting illegally.”

The platform provides a range of advice for retailers including:

  • making sure that distributors have contracts to sell products in the UK;
  • checking the packaging of vape products makes it clear that they are only for adults;
  • implementing a vetting process to ensure the products they put on their shelves are checked and verified with the relevant authorities, such as the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) prior to placing an order;
  • insisting on the supplier providing them with a “compliance file” per product to ensure the manufacturers are doing their due diligence and making the regulatory filings;
  • reporting illicit products using online facilities that some disposable manufacturers, such as Geek Bar, have put in place to enable retailers and wholesalers to check the authenticity of products and report suspected counterfeits and non-compliant products.

It also provides access to useful resources such as vaping retail guides produced by the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to ensure that retailers are complying with regulations.

In addition, there is advice for distributors, including:

  • checking products they are supplying are registered with and published as approved by the MHRA;
  • ensuring that products they have purchased incorporate a UK batch number;
  • having distribution contracts in place with the manufacturers they are supplying products on behalf of. This distribution contract should clearly set out which territories products they can sell in based on domestic regulations on e-liquid capacity and nicotine concentrations;
  • familiarising themselves with vaping regulations so they know what they are supplying is compliant with legislation

Parents and educators can also use the platform to find out how they can report retailers that they suspect of breaking the law and selling vapes to U18s.

Yang added: “Purposely, we have not associated our brand with VapeWatch on the actual platform as we did not want it to be perceived as a promotional vehicle for our business but a genuine move to support the industry and other audiences in ensuring vapes are only used by former or existing adult smokers and that only compliant products are supplied and sold via online and offline retailers.”

Commenting, John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA: “The vaping industry is united in its absolute commitment and support respectively to ensuring that vapes do not fall into the wrong hands and imposing heavy fines on those retailers that continue to break the law. The UKVIA and its members are committed to making our industry better through a whole host of great initiatives in the area of youth access prevention and we applaud Geek Bar for the idea of VapeWatch to call out the rogue traders.”