As tobacco sales decline, vaping has given us an opportunity to plug the gap in our falling turnover and help customers who want to stop smoking safely.

Vaping has grown into a lucrative business for many retailers, but sadly a familiar story is unfolding on the streets once again. While retailers battle to pay rates, staff and utility bills, illegal vape liquid and accessories are openly available and are being sold from front rooms, car boots and sports bags.

Legislation has been slow, hesitation that I presume was due to the speed of growth in the market and the uncertainty that vaping was really a safe way to stop smoking. The first attempt in May 2017 to control the market resulted in an influx of non-compliant stock onto the black market. Stock that was perfectly legal to sell one day was made illegal the next as limits were put on the size of bottles, packaging was redesigned, nicotine strengths were reduced and tank sizes were limited. What happened to the stock that was no longer compliant? Vast quantities ended up on social media and on the streets.

Many retailers saw sales drop as customers were confused into thinking they were doing nothing wrong by buying stock they’d seen on retailers’ shelves being sold for half the price in the pub.

We are now regularly seeing illegal vape liquids and tanks on social media in flavours and strengths we wouldn’t dream of stocking.

Once again education is lacking. The government must realise that illegal products cost lives and cause communities to lose the hard-working, responsible retailers who care for customers on a daily basis.