UKVIA (1) says it has found growing evidence of illicit and inappropriately branded vaping products hitting the UK market in the trending disposable vape sector. Its investigation discovered that there is a significant amount of non-compliant products entering the UK and being sold in particular by convenience shops and on major e-commerce platforms.
John Dunne, director general at the UKVIA, says: “We are calling upon regulators and major e-commerce platforms to robustly enforce current regulations and do much more in order to ‘clean up’ the disposable vapes market.”
The disposable vape sector has enjoyed a significant revival in the last couple of years, appealing as an entry point for adult smokers looking to quit conventional cigarettes and longer-term users requiring increased convenience.
However, UKVIA’s investigation identified that illegal products are re-entering the UK market.
“The problem lies with some distributors who are flouting UK regulations and managing to get these products imported into the country and sell them onto traders and retailers; as well as a lack of proper scrutiny on major online platforms.”
Disposable vapes are pre-filled with e-liquids and cost around £6 each, UK regulations mean they should contain no more than 20mg/ml of nicotine, yet evidence collected by the UKVIA reveals that some listed as this amount contain higher concentrations of nicotine and some products are being openly sold with 50mg/ml strength. Furthermore, product packaging is not including warnings about the nicotine content, which is a legal requirement
The UKVIA says it has been in discussions with the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates vape products and Trading Standards, responsible for ensuring vape businesses are compliant with the legislation around the sale of vape devices and e-liquids, to address the situation.
“In a major crackdown on unscrupulous suppliers, the association, the largest of its kind in the UK representing the vaping sector, is providing guidance on official distributors and disposable vape products to its members as well as looking at the idea of licensing vape shops to fund enforcement. It’s also working with manufacturers of disposable vapes to ensure they are doing all that is possible to monitor and audit their distributors.
“The UKVIA is now calling for action to go much further and urging the MHRA, Trading Standards, e-commerce platforms, as well as reputable disposable vape producers, to come down hard on those supplying and selling illegal disposable vapes.”
John Dunne, the Director General of the UKVIA commented: “Robust enforcement of the current regulations is the only answer and it’s needed now. We can provide support to the regulators and educate the industry on how to distinguish between what’s a compliant product or not; and we are in the process of doing this. However, we are not in a position to come down heavy on those breaking the law, that lies with the regulators.
“From Guildford to Manchester, our investigation reveals that illegal and counterfeit products are flooding into the market and consequently pose a potential health risk to customers. Inappropriately branded products are also being purposely marketed towards children.”
Added Dunne: “The vaping sector’s reputation, that the industry has taken years to build up, and which has made it one of the most successful business markets in the 21st century to date, is being threatened by a minority intent on making a quick buck out of a popular product, and we will not stand back and just watch it happen. Disposables have a major role to play in the vape market, but like all products they need to adhere to the legislation.
“In the meantime, it’s important that smokers are not deterred from switching to vaping as a result of the non-compliant disposable vape products hitting the UK market. Public Health England states that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking, and a report it published earlier this year highlighted that nicotine vaping products were the most popular aid used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020. Significant evidence, including from PHE, also shows that vaping products are much more effective for helping people stop smoking than Nicotine Replacement Therapies. To avoid the risk of buying illicit products, smokers should only buy from reputable sources.”
IBVTA (2) said: “We are aware of a media story concerning vaping products being offered for sale in the UK which do not comply with the UK’s regulations. The IBVTA has consistently maintained that non-compliance should not be a competitive advantage for a small number of bad actors.
“Vaping (the use of e-cigarettes) is now the UK’s most effective and most popular tool to de-normalise smoking and has already helped millions of smokers across the UK to quit. There are currently around 3.6 million vapers in the UK, and independent research has found vaping to be at least 95% safer than smoking.
“There is a wide range of vaping devices on the UK market, and this choice is good for consumers. Every smoker should be able to find a device and liquid combination that will be the key to them taking their important first steps to becoming smoke free, and to go on to stay smoke free.
“As an organisation, the IBVTA continues to engage with all levels of government to make the case for proportionate, evidence-based regulation. We aim to enable the UK vape sector to produce the right products for UK consumers, with proper market surveillance from recognised authorities, so that the UK maintains its position as a world leader in vaping and harm reduction. In addition, in cooperation with our Trading Standards Primary Authority, we provide advice and guidance to the industry on compliance and product stewardship, as well as assured advice on preventing underage sales.
“We will continue to work pro-actively with regulators and enforcement bodies to strive for a level playing field on which reputable businesses who abide by UK regulations can successfully operate.”