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Government Crackdown Failing

New Freedom Of Information (FOI) data from 152 local councils, submitted by Vape Club, shows that in 2023 the number of illegal vapes seized increased 19 times from 2020

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New Freedom Of Information (FOI) data from 152 local councils, submitted by Vape Club, shows that in 2023 the number of illegal vapes seized increased 19 times from 2020. Despite the increased focus on illegal activity, this hasn't led to effective enforcement, the vape company says. While 2871 illegal vape sellers were caught in 2023, just 5% resulted in fines or penalties.

New data shows illegal vapes were seized from nearly 3,000 unscrupulous sellers in 2023 across the UK, but only 1 in 20 were issued fines. Illegal vapes haven’t gone through the usual rigorous product safety tests, and risk causing serious harm to the user.

In 2023, over one and a half million illegal vapes were seized in the UK, enough for three to be sold every minute according to the 2024 Illegal Vaping Report. This report analyses the latest Freedom of Information request from 152 local authorities, obtained by Vape Club, and follows the launch of the Vape Retailer and Distributor Licensing framework to engage the government and authorities in developing methods to stop the vaping black market.

The issue has been growing since the turn of the decade, since which 4.18 million illegal vapes have been seized. Between 2020 and 2023, the number of illegal vapes seized increased 19 times.

With the UK Government recently proposing a disposable vape ban, experts argue this opens more doors for the illegal vape black market. Figures show more support is needed for trading standards and local authorities to keep up with the scale of the issue. 

The UK's illegal vape hotspots

London and Greater Manchester in particular are being targeted by unscrupulous retailers and illegal vape sellers. In 2023, the total number of illegal vapes seized from the areas accounted for 40% of the UK's total and amounted to over half a million products taken off the streets.

Of the London boroughs that responded, 787 sellers were identified as being in possession of, stocking, or selling illegal vapes in 2023. However, only three were fined or issued penalties (0.38%).

Dan Marchant, Director of the UK’s largest vaping and vape pod retailer, Vape Club, says: “The unregulated illegal vape trade mirrors the issues once prevalent in the cigarette black market, including youth usage, potentially dangerous products, and unregulated retail sales.

“The best deterrent for any crime is the likelihood of being caught and right now that is incredibly low, and rogue retailers are taking full advantage of this. We have to create an environment where there is much more chance of being caught. 

“Currently, the maximum fine that can be handed out is £2,500 but in reality, the fines given out are much, much lower. We completely welcome the move to allow trading standards to issue on-the-spot fines, but we would like to see those fines increased to at least £10,000 and increase the fine for repeat offenders.”

How to spot an illegal vape

To protect unsuspecting vapers from falling prey to the black market, it's crucial to be aware of what makes a vaping product illegal:

  • The vape contains over 600-700 puffs 
  • The volume of e-liquid is over 2ml
  • Nicotine levels are higher than 20mg/ml or 2%
  • The packaging doesn’t show the required nicotine warnings
  • Packaging without a full ingredient list. These should be visible with allergens highlighted


Photo Credit:

  • Photo by Max Fleischmann on Unsplash

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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