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    Trading Standards need ‘biggest funding increase in a generation’ to tackle rising tide of illegal vapes

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    UK government need to provide Trading Standards in England with an additional £140 million over the next five years to fund a new battalion of 400 enforcement officers to tackle the rising tide of illegal vape devices being distributed in England, a local stores association has said. 

    New research, released today (26) by retailers’ body Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), has outlined the scale of the resources that are needed to deal with the illicit vaping market and preventing underage sales. The additional funding, which would start at £30.7m in year one, rising to £36.2m in year two and then gradually falling, represents an initial 28.4 per cent increase in Trading Standards budgets, making it one of the most significant expansions of Trading Standards capability for at least a generation.

    Research of Trading Standards authorities has identified that since 2020, three illegal vapes have been seized every minute. Between 2020 and 2023, the amount of illegal vape devices seized by Trading Standards increased 19 fold, with a total of 4.18 million illegal vapes seized during the last three years.

    This however represents just a fraction of the illicit vape devices that are available for customers to purchase. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute estimates that up to one in three vape products on the market today are illegal. The report released today shows that to have a meaningful impact on the illicit vaping market, officers will need to seize around 20 million vape devices over the next five years.

    The government has committed £30m per year over the next five years to address the illicit trade in tobacco and vaping products. Of this investment, at least £20m per year has been allocated to HMRC and Border Force activity, with just £10m per year to support Trading Standards enforcement. This equates to between £30,000 and £50,000 per authority in England, barely enough to fund one additional enforcement officer in each area. 

    ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “This report focuses on a key and under-resourced part of enforcement: Trading Standards officers with a dedicated brief to tackle the illicit vape market on high streets, outside school gates and online. So far the government is committing less than £10m a year to this, and this report shows that we need three times this investment to make a significant dent on the problem of illegal vapes being sold in our communities.

    “The illicit vaping market is set to receive a boost when disposable vapes are banned in less than 12 months time, so we need to ensure that enforcement activity is robust enough to deal with the problem. We also need enforcement to be carried out in the strongest possible terms, as we do not believe that the current fixed penalty notices for selling vapes go far enough to act as an effective deterrent.”

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