Marcus Saxton Chair of the IBVTA

The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) has called for better enforcement to tackle the glut of illicit products on the market and under-age sales.

Speaking to Convenience Store for Responsible Retailing Week, IBVTA chair Marcus Saxton urged more action against those breaking the law as well as placing limitations on who can sell the products.

“There should be greater enforcement around the current regulation on sales to under 18’s, with appropriate level of fines, as well as limiting the availability of those products to retailers who can adopt the necessary age-verification protocols. And these are unlikely to be the likes of phone cover shops, gift retailers, pizza shops.”

Saxton says that illicit trade is undoing the good that the legitimate part of the trade is doing. “Governments should position the current issues in balanced context. Smoking rates are at an all-time low and both single use products, and the wider reputable sector have a hugely positive role to play. However, this is being lost when there is so much media focus on underage use. Although this is clearly an issue that must be addressed, it actually forms a small minority of overall use of the products.”

He did add that retailers have to play their part. “Undoubtedly the enforcement agencies are stretched. They are not only dealing with illegal vape sales, but a myriad of other products. Whilst we would advocate for much higher fines for retailers selling illicit product/underage sales, we cannot rely solely on regulators, and it is key that retailers adhere to their legal obligations.”

The category has exploded in the past few years, Saxton explains why this has happened. “The growth has been predominantly driven through the resurgence of single use products, which deliver consistent quality and simplicity of use. These have been extremely attractive to adult social/regular smokers. In addition, these products, are simple for a myriad of retailers to sell, requiring very little expertise, as well as being incremental to their previous margins associated with combustible cigarettes.”

The category was hit hard when some major brands were found to be non-compliant with UK legislation, he explains what is being done to make sure it doesn’t happen again as well as how it is overcoming questions being raised surrounding sustainability.

“Both the IBVTA and responsible importers will be conducting consistent compliance checks on both fill levels and packaging for all products they supply and sharing these with the appropriate regulators/retailers.

We’ve also put together a guide which gives the information businesses need to uphold their recycling responsibilities, as well as identifying licenced recycling partners who are doing things the right way.

With the government launching a consultation on vaping, with suggestions of a ban on single-use products, what impact does the IBVTA believe this will have on the category?

“We believe that a ban is a blunt instrument and would likely further exacerbate the illicit trade. In a study of over 6,000 consumers through an IBVTA member, it was revealed that 46% of regular smokers and 37% of ex-smokers have tried or used a vaping device to help them quit smoking and that 72% of ex-smokers (who quit in past 5 years) and 56% of regular smokers believe single use devices are helpful in assisting individuals to reduce their smoking levels.”

The IBVTA recently launched a campaign raising awareness of legitimate suppliers in the category. Saxton outlined what the goal of this campaign is. “Our resources are finite, but our objective is to ensure that consumers ‘explore the facts’ to enable them to make an informed decision. Vaping is categorically safer than smoking, and it remains true that there is no better time for a smoker to make the switch to vaping.”