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    Nearly a quarter of all illegal vapes seized in the UK were found in Greater Manchester

    Illegal vapes seized in Stockport on September 21, 2023 (Photo: Greater Manchester Police/Facebook)

    By: Ethan Davies, Local Democracy Reporter

    Nearly a quarter of all illegal vapes seized in the UK were found in Greater Manchester.

    Just five boroughs — Manchester, Salford, Wigan, Rochdale, and Bolton — accounted for the 345,684 dodgy vapes taken by councils. That represents 22 percent of the 2023 nationwide total of roughly 1.5 million.

    It means that there was one illicit e-cigarette for every eight Greater Mancunians, according to the ‘2024 Illegal Vaping report’. The figures, released following a freedom of information request, shows how quickly the illicit products have become an issue.

    Manchester saw no seizures until 2022, when the statistic was 13,960. A year later, it was 158,434.

    A similar story unfolded in Bolton, which saw 4,089 seized in 2022 — surging to 37,999 last year. However, Salford trading standards officers took the most vapes in the five-year period.

    In 2019, officers confiscated 17,493, then 42,033 in 2020, which fell to 5,477 in 2021. Two years ago, it again rose to 183,749, and remained a six-figure-sum at 112,060 in 2023.

    The figures highlight ‘the issues once prevalent in the cigarette black market’ like underage use, potentially dangerous products, and unregulated sales, said Dan Marchant.

    “The best deterrent for any crime is the likelihood of being caught and right now that is incredibly low, and rogue retailers are taking full advantage of this,” said Mr Marchant, the director of Vape Club, a e-cig retailer which commissioned the research. “We have to create an environment where there is much more chance of being caught.”

    The sky-rocketing numbers in Manchester may be in part down to a crackdown on ‘Counterfeit Street’. Both council officers and GMP cops have closed numerous dodgy retailers on Bury New Road, in Strangeways, with illicit vapes frequently being taken as part of their raids.

    The LDRS asked each Greater Manchester council named in the report on their stance on illegal vapes, with responses provided below.

    Manchester

    A spokesperson for Manchester City Council said: “The wide-spread use of vapes in society has naturally resulted in an upsurge in the number of dangerous or non-compliant vapes being sold. As they are nicotine products their sale and ingredients are tightly controlled by national legislation – the same legislation that as a Council we work to enforce.

    “While the sale of vapes can be helpful as a nicotine replacement solution for people quitting smoking, over the past several years the Council has worked to investigate premises which have sold non-compliant vapes, as well as securing information through intelligence and anonymous tip offs.

    “We remain committed to rooting out and getting any dangerous products off the market, and preventing any potential harm coming to Manchester residents.”

    Bolton

    A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “The trading standards team work hard to remove illegal vapes from our streets and we have a team of officers dedicated to investigating suspected illegal traders.

    “We continue to look at enforcement options like closure orders that will deliver a long-term solution to combating the problem. Since May 2023 we have formally issued three cautions to illegal traders and have sent fifty warning letters for non-compliant e-cigs and illicit tobacco.

    “Tackling the sale of illegal vapes continues to be a priority for this council. Anyone with information about the sale of suspected illegal vapes, tobacco or underage sales in Bolton should contact trading standards at [email protected].”

    Wigan

    A Wigan Council spokesperson said “We are proactive about tackling illegal activity to stop shops selling illegal types of ecigarettes (vapes). Our team will not hesitate to take enforcement action where necessary.

    “We now receive more complaints about vapes being illegally sold to children than we do for cigarettes or alcohol, and we will continue test and investigate shops wherever we can.  Four shops in Leigh and Golborne have been caught selling vapes to a child during recent exercises by our Trading Standards team with all of the shop owners now under investigation for illegal activity.

    “Anyone wishing to report suspicious activity can contact Trading Standards in confidence at [email protected] or 0808 223 1133.”

    Salford

    Salford council did not respond to the LDRS’ request for comment.

    Rochdale

    Rochdale council did not respond to the LDRS’ request for comment.

    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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