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Retailers reacted positively to the idea of a license to sell vape products if it meant a reduction in the illicit trade.

During a virtual roundtable, held as part of Responsible Retailing Week 2023, retailers highlighted the need for license to sell vapes as a deterrent against illicit sales.

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Supported by Phoenix 2 Retail, the roundtable featured representation from across the sector to discuss the main issues facing store owners and their staff.

While all areas of responsible retailing were discussed, the vape category dominated conversation, especially surrounding under-age sales, non-compliant products and stocking products that are marketed to children.

It was widely agreed that stronger enforcement is needed to tackle the rise in illicit sales and the worrying increase in under-age usage of the products.

One suggestion made was for a license to sell vape products to be introduced, that could be monitored by Trading Standards and give consumers more clarity on the shops that are selling legitimate products. It was proposed that the vaping license be linked to tobacco and alcohol licenses so that if a retailer is found to be in breach of one license, they risk losing the others, taking away valuable revenue streams.

Another deterrent discussed was a larger fine for those found to be non-compliant. The UK Vaping Industry Association is calling for £10,000 fines for stores breaching legislation, and this was echoed by the group. One participant highlighted a recent case in which a store owner was fined less than £30 for selling illicit vapes, which they believed could be made back in less than an hour of trading.

While the idea of regulation was welcomed, the prospect of a ban on the sale of single-use vapes was worrying, with more than one retailer claiming that if disposable vapes weren’t allowed to be sold anymore, a lot of stores would be in trouble.

One area that was highlighted was the responsibility from retailers to their staff from a support point of view. The importance of checking in with staff on a regular basis to make sure they’re okay was stressed, particularly in the face of rising levels of abuse.