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    Only 1 in 20 illegal vape sellers fined in 2023 – FOI data

    Illegal vapes seized from South Kirkby shop (Photo: West Yorkshire Police)

    Illegal vapes were seized from nearly 3,000 unscrupulous sellers in 2023 across the UK, but only 1 in 20 were issued fines, new data has shown.

    In 2023, over one and a half million illegal vapes were seized in the UK, enough for three to be sold every minute according to the 2024 Illegal Vaping Report, which analyses the latest Freedom of Information request from 152 local authorities, obtained by vaping retailer Vape Club.

    The report follows the launch of the Vape Retailer and Distributor Licensing framework to engage the government and authorities in developing methods to stop the vaping black market.

    The issue has been growing since the turn of the decade, since which 4.18 million illegal vapes have been seized. Between 2020 and 2023, the number of illegal vapes seized increased 19 times.

    With the UK Government recently proposing a disposable vape ban, experts argue this opens more doors for the illegal vape black market. Figures show more support is needed for trading standards and local authorities to keep up with the scale of the issue.

    “The unregulated illegal vape trade mirrors the issues once prevalent in the cigarette black market, including youth usage, potentially dangerous products, and unregulated retail sales,” said Dan Marchant, director of Vape Club.

    “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. We have to create an environment where there is much more chance of being caught.

    “Currently, the maximum fine that can be handed out is £2,500 but in reality, the fines given out are much, much lower. We completely welcome the move to allow trading standards to issue on-the-spot fines, but we would like to see those fines increased to at least £10,000 and increase the fine for repeat offenders.”

    London and Greater Manchester in particular are being targeted by unscrupulous retailers and illegal vape sellers. In 2023, the total number of illegal vapes seized from the areas accounted for 40 per cent of the UK’s total and amounted to over half a million products taken off the streets.

    Of the London boroughs that responded, 787 sellers were identified as being in possession of, stocking, or selling illegal vapes in 2023. However, only three were fined or issued penalties (0.38 per cent).

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