The government is expected to take action against illicit vape sales.

Public Health Minster Neil O’Brien is expected to set out a range of measures aiming to tackle illicit vapes and underage sales, including a task force and funding.

The expected measures include an illicit vapes ‘enforcement squad’ led by Trading Standards, that will share knowledge and intelligence across regional networks and local authorities, and backed by £3m of government funding.

This taskforce is expected to undertake specific projects such as test purchasing in convenience stores and vape shops. It will also produce guidance to help build regulatory compliance and will have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at borders.

Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Health Minister Neil O’Brien said:

”Smoking kills, so our priority is to prevent people smoking, and support them to quit. We remain committed to our ambition to be smokefree by 2030.

”However, while vaping is a preferable alternative to smoking for adults, we are concerned about the rise in youth vaping, particularly the increasing use of disposable vaping products.

”The new illicit vapes enforcement squad will work across the country and clamp down on those businesses who sell vapes to children – which is illegal – and get them hooked on nicotine. Our Call for Evidence will also allow us to get a firm understanding of the steps we can take to reduce the number of children accessing and using vapes.”

The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) welcomed the expected measures.

The IBVTA said it believes that retailers who do not check the provenance or MHRA notification status of vape products they sell are also unlikely to verify the age of customers in any meaningful way.

Chief executive Gillian Golden said: “We applaud the Minister’s expected announcement. The IBVTA looks forward to continuing to support enforcement agencies in tackling illicit trade and illegal products. They have, for too long, sullied the reputation of legitimate independent vaping businesses. They have also put a very negative spin on the general public’s understanding of our sector.

“Vaping is the most popular, effective, and cost-effective tool smokers use to quit. We welcome the Government’s continued recognition of the important role that reputable UK vape businesses play in driving down smoking rates.”

John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), added:

”We’re especially pleased that the government has taken on board our idea of a test purchasing scheme across the country which will help to keep a much-needed close eye on the sales activities of retailers.

”We also applaud the move to create an illicit vapes enforcement squad to enhance the capability and outcomes of Trading Standards in dealing with the rising level of illicit products that are on the market as well as underage sales.”

Dunne said any measures to tackle the issue should not deter those looking to use vaping as a means to stop smoking.

”There is no doubt that action directed at those illegally selling vape products to children is the way forward. Vitally, it means that any youth vaping prevention measures cannot be to the detriment of adult smokers looking to quit through vaping and vapers who want to avoid a return to smoking. This is precisely the effect a ban on flavoured vapes would have, given the fact that adult smokers and vapers rely on them to quit their habits and avoid relapsing.”