The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said they are ‘very concerned’ about the volume of non-compliant vapes that are currently in circulation, alleging that such vapes have flooded the UK market.
The current regulations specify that vapes are required to have tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml; a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml; and their labels display manufacturer details and health warnings. Any vapes that have contents exceeding these amounts are illegal products and should not be sold to consumers.
The CTSI said trading Standards teams across the UK are overwhelmed by the volume of non-compliant vapes being sold by retailers, with 1.4 tonnes of illegal vapes seized in the last six months of 2022 in the North East of England alone.
Based on test purchasing, around 1 in 3 vape products may be non-compliant – this may include having the wrong health warning, the wrong tank size, a higher concentration of nicotine, containing CBD, incorrect labelling – or all of the above, it added.
“While Trading Standards Officers are working tirelessly to try and combat the tidal wave of non- compliant vapes being sold by retailers, there is a wider issue of faults in the supply chain,” the organisation said in a statement.
The trading standards body called for urgent support and clarification from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), saying the scale of non-compliant vapes and the concerns around underage sales are “snowballing, and getting out of hand”.
“Trading Standards teams need clearer direction from the government on this issue including from DHSC and relevant agencies particularly in relation to non-compliant products. We also need manufacturers to publish batch numbers of non-compliant products so that retailers know what they should not be selling,” the statement read.
The CTSI has also called for “more boots on the ground” to help enforce regulations, and advise businesses, as they are currently spread very thinly enforcing laws on a range of issues from food standards to product safety.
“We currently lack a national picture of what is happening – and our local teams require support to help co-ordinate efforts,” it said in the statement.
The organisation alleged that around 1 in 3 shops sell vapes to those knowingly under the age of sale, citing ‘intelligence led test purchasing’.
The statement also called for a ‘wider review’ of the TRPR regulations to make sure they are keeping up with product development and market changes. It also suggested to ‘exploring restrictions to stop young people taking up vaping without impacting on the move from smoking to vaping.
“This could include reducing the youth appeal’ of vaping, for example the banning of cartoon characters or light up vapes, restrictions on the colours of packaging as well as the promotion of vapes on social media platforms such as TikTok. Also, to look at where the products are positioned in stores – often in smaller shops next to the confectionery,” it said
The CTSI also recommended toughening up the sanctions available for those producers, suppliers, retailers who don’t comply with the law.
“There are trials in place that could be extended to trading standars teams to issue restorative justice sanctions which would entail suppliers paying for the costs of local authorities to seize and then dispose of nonicompliant vapes,” it noted.