Teenage vaper blowing vapour by vape display

Source: GettyImages_Credit AleksandrYu

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has urged retailers to build better relationships with their Trading Standards teams as data from Operation Joseph reveals that the rate of non-compliance on vape test purchases is 27%.

Stemming from the government’s £3m in funding earlier this year, Trading Standards put Operation Joseph into action to enforce the rules on vaping and tackle illicit vapes and underage sales, carrying out a series of test purchases in vape retailers, including convenience stores. 

Of the 1,199 test purchases carried out, 27.3% were caught selling to under 18s.

“It is a wild west out there,” said CTSI director of external affairs Duncan Stephenson, speaking at the Association of Convenience Stores’ Heart of the Community event in London last Tuesday. “There are issues with the product, there are issues with underage sales…”

He told Convenience Store that the rate of non-compliance on test purchases was unacceptable. “We shouldn’t be seeing this level of underage sales,” he said.

However, he stated that the aim was not necessarily to punish the stores involved, but rather to educate them, noting “we recognise that the vast majority of businesses do want to do the right thing”.

He said: “A lot of the action that is going to be taken with those stores [failing test purchases] is not penalties, it’s advice and support. You shouldn’t be afraid to approach your Trading Standards team. In the majority of cases of non compliance we’ve given guidance or we’ve issued a warning just to ensure that the retailers don’t do it again.

“We urge you to build a relationship with your local trading standards. You shouldn’t see them as ‘oh god, I don’t’ want to get in touch, they might issue me with a fine or close me down’. Trading Standards are here to help.”

Non-compliant vapes

Operation Joseph has also involved Trading Standards teams carrying out raids to tackle the sale of illegal vapes.

Raids at four premises in Newcastle and Uttoxeter last month saw £18,161 worth of illegal vapes seized by Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards officers, supported by Staffordshire Police and Newcastle Borough Council licensing team.

Officers seized some oversized products offering up to 14ml capacity, with an estimated 9,000 puffs, which is seven times the legal limit.

Victoria Wilson, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council, said:

“Illegal and oversized vaping products are becoming increasingly popular but can be harmful to people’s health, which is why we’re working hard to remove them from the streets. We are also seeing an increase in the sale of them to young people, which is a worrying trend and something we are keen to stamp out.”