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Retailers have warned that a ban on disposable vapes will only encourage the illicit trade.

Commenting on the announcement that the government is to ban the sale of single-use vapes, retailers have warned that it may not be the right course of action to stop under-age usage.

Speaking to Convenience Store, Amit Puntambekar of Ash’s Shop Nisa Local in Cambridgeshire said a ban isn’t going to stop access by children.

“We can understand why the government have kind of push forward on this, but it’s a bit disheartening to hear it now because the vape industry have been working very hard to provide a retail and wholesale license scheme, which we believe would cut down a lot of the black market and illicit trade,” he said.

“A blanket ban on disposables is a very blunt instrument to use and I don’t think that is going to stop access to these products and or for children to get their hands on them. If young children really want to get their hands on them, what we need to be looking at and considering is the route to the market. Where are people getting them from? How do we challenge the black market? Is it physical stores and how can we resolve this issue going forward because all we’re going to do is potentially turbocharge a black market which what we’ve seen in tobacco, the black market in tobacco is 20% of the net tax.”

Sue Nithyanandan of Costcutter Epsom said the illicit trade is going to be “rubbing their hands with glee” following this announcement.

“Single use vapes and all vapes should be regulated and licensed,” she said. “The ban is going to drive the demand underground and the irresponsible retailers that sell vapes are going to be rubbing their hands with glee.

Sue warned that those looking to give up smoking will be placed in a tough position.

“All responsible retailers will abide by the law but genuine customers who use vape as a cessation tool from smoking (for health and monetary reasons) will not have a safe choice.

“All the retailers want is a sensible approach, some form of regulation in par with the sale of other age-related products. In my store all vape (single, liquids and devices) have taken nearly 50% of cigarette tobacco sales. It will affect the bottom line as this extra revenue plugged the extra costs associated with energy, wage increases and business rates. It wasn’t making retailers rich but helped many to survive.”

Nishi Patel of Londis Bexley called the move a “massive mis-step” and warned that it would shift people toward the illicit trade.

In a statement on social media, he said:

”It’s a massive misstep and all this will do is make the black market bigger, shops will have to stop trading because they just can’t afford to stay open. The duty short fall on sales of tobacco how will they be made up? Why not increase the age from 18-21, why not licence responsible retailers and use the the funds to police the illegal shops? I agree our youth shouldn’t smoke or vape I totally understand but let us help who do it probably help solve the issue.”

Retailer trade bodies also condemned the move.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the measures will only impact legitimate retailers. “There are rules already in place to stop children purchasing vapes, to stop vapes being littered and ensure they can be recycled, and to punish those who sell illicit products but they are either not being enforced effectively or not at all due to a lack of resources provided to trading standards. The Government’s proposals will have a significant operational and financial impact on legitimate retailers, while rogue sellers will continue on without concern.”

National President of the Federation of the Independent Retailers (The Fed) Muntazir Dipoti said: “While we agree that action is needed to prevent children and young people being attracted to vaping, we do not believe that banning disposable vapes is the way to go about it.

“An outright ban will simply send youngsters towards unorthodox and illicit sources where there is no compliance to tobacco and vaping laws, while the products they peddle are likely to contain dangerous and illegal levels of toxic chemicals. Disposable vapes are usually more affordable and, as such, are a bigger incentive for adult smokers to change to vapes.”

Dipoti suggested that the government needed to make more financial resources available for educational campaigns, while more enforcement activity was required, especially at borders to prevent counterfeit products entering the market. He added that a proper disposal scheme would be more effective at reducing the number thrown away than a ban.

“Vape retailers are responsible and offer a recycling option, but the government should be looking at making available more ways to safely recycle disposable vapes.”