Illegal vapes have become the ‘new battleground’ for Lincolnshire Trading Standards, comprising the vast majority of unsafe products the service removed from the market last year, according to a new report.
In its report to Lincolnshire Council’s Public Protection and Communities Scrutiny Committee, the service reveals that of the 5,417 unsafe products it removed from the market between April and December 2022, 5,062 were non-compliant vapes.
As elsewhere in the country, frequent issues encountered by Lincolnshire Trading Standards Officers include oversized tanks, with some containing more than 16 times the legal limit of around 600 puffs; nicotine levels above the legal limit of 20mg/ml; and the sale of vapes to children.
The service has sent letters to more than 100 premises across the county providing guidance on nicotine capacity rules and reminding traders that such products cannot be sold to those under the age of 18.
The underage sales of vapes is an area of growing concern for Trading Standards services across the country. In Lincolnshire, 35% of the intelligence received around underage sales is now about the sale of vapes specifically. Around one in five test purchases carried out by the service result in underage volunteers being sold vapes.
Mark Keal, Head of Lincolnshire Trading Standards, said: “The popularity of disposable vapes has exploded over the last 18 months, and we have seen a lot of shops cashing in on the new craze.
“Many of the businesses now selling vapes haven’t sold nicotine products before, and we’ve gone to great lengths to advise businesses on the regulations around them, to help them comply with the law. What we’re seeing now is more unscrupulous businesses knowingly selling oversized, non-compliant vapes.
“Many of the shops where we find illegal cigarettes, we’re now also finding illegal vapes. However, whereas the dodgy cigarettes are hidden away behind the counter, in a back room, or in some elaborate hide, illegal vapes are often brazenly displayed at the counter, making them seem legitimate to the average customer.
“The growing trend of young people vaping for the first time is also concerning. Whilst shops are clearly consistent in asking for ID when selling cigarettes and alcohol, there seems to be a more slack attitude when it comes to vapes and that’s something we’re working hard to address through education and enforcement.”