The Port Compliance team at Kent County Council Trading Standards has significantly dented the efforts of criminals to flood the UK market with illicit vapes, having seized more than 315,000 illegal devices in December alone.
Officers from the small team inspected eight consignments of vapes last month, following referrals from the UK Border Agency.
In inspections at ports including Dover and the Inland Border Facility in Kent, they intercepted 315,920 vapes with an estimated market value of more than £3m. The number of vapes seized far exceeds the 7,500 previously intercepted by the team over the summer of 2022, suggesting a dramatic rise in the amount of illicit vapes entering the country.
Radoslava Zrebiec, Port Import Compliance Officer at Kent County Council Trading Standards, said: “If we can stop illegal vapes at the border, the impact is massive as it prevents them going inland and getting into the shops.”
Supply routes by which the devices travelled to the UK have been identified from the point of manufacture in China through various hubs in Europe, and the way the items were packaged on pallets for onward supply is indicative of a level of organisation that suggests the possible involvement of organised criminal networks.
Many of the vapes seized had a capacity of around 3,500 puffs, exceeding the legal limit of 600 puffs by around six times. There are also concerns that some of the devices may have been counterfeit versions of established brands, and were seemingly designed to appeal specifically to young people.
“They’re brightly coloured, with flavours and smells that are likely to appeal to children,” Zrebiec added.
The eight separate cases are under investigation and are likely to result in prosecutions.
Last week CTSI sounded the alarm about the rise in illicit and underage vape sales, with a majority of Trading Standards Officers saying that illicit vapes and vape shops are the high street problems they are currently most concerned about.