Illegal vapes worth £40,000 have been seized from a shop in the City of London.
The City of London Corporation’s Trading Standards seized the vapes, which will be destroyed, during door-to-door checks on shops selling e-cigarettes and other vaping products.
The vapes’ tanks exceeded the UK’s legal capacity of 2ml of vape fluid, as set by the Government’s Medical and Healthcare product’s Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The Square Mile shop’s owner was interviewed under caution, issued a notice and fined £400 in destruction costs.
This incident marks a spate of similar seizures across London in the past year, with 500 illegal vapes removed in Barking and Dagenham and 3,000 taken from shops across Chelsea and Kensington.
Ramul Shah, owner of Vapebuzz in Aldgate, was sympathetic to retailers caught out by non-compliant products.
He expressed concerns after the recent ElfBar scandal, in which the MHRA requested the popular brand’s ElfBar 600 e-cigarette be removed from UK shelves.
After recalling the model, which also exceeded the 2ml tank limit, some retailers alleged that ElfBar advised them to continue selling it.
Shah said: “When I heard about ElfBar, I was in contact with my suppliers straight away, and I questioned them.
“I said: ‘Look, it’s been in the newspapers, it’s been everywhere, where do we stand?’
“They responded: ‘You’re perfectly fine to sell it until the MRHA tells us otherwise.’”
Although Shah is confident his products fully comply with regulations, he plans to stay in close contact with his suppliers.
However, not everyone in the business thinks illegal vapes only reach the shelves due to regulatory miscommunication.
While considering the broader industry, Don Nguin, owner of Soho Vape in the City, suggested some retailers may consider selling illegal vapes.
He said: “There’s been a lot more competition in the industry with the corner shops and big supermarkets getting involved.
“The smaller independents will be tempted to offer illegal products – if people ask for it, they’ll stock it.”
Data from the UK Vaping Industry Association indicates that independent vape stores have lost business in recent years.
Market share for independent vaping shops decreased from 39% to 33% between 2017 and 2021.
During the same period, market share for supermarkets rose 2%, while for corner shops it doubled to 16%.
Whether due to misunderstandings or more nefarious reasons, illegal vapes are likely to keep Trading Standards on their toes.
Keith Bottomley, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, said: “Our trading standards team works hard to ensure that the Square Mile is a safe place for people to shop.
“City Corporation Trading Standards officers are continuing to visit vape retailers to make sure they are selling legal products.”
Anyone with information about City retailers selling illegal vapes or selling vapes to children under 18, should email [email protected] or call 0207 332 3406.