The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged the government to allocate an extra £140m to Trading Standards in England over the next five years to combat the increasing distribution of illegal vape devices in England.

This would represent a 28.4% increase in Trading Standards budgets, making it one of the most significant expansions for at least a generation, and could “fund a new battalion of 400 enforcement officers,” said the ACS.

Currently, the government has pledged to invest £30m annually for the next five years aimed at tackling the trade of illicit tobacco and vaping products. 

Out of this investment, the ACS stated that at least £20m per year will be allocated to HMRC and Border Force activity, leaving £10m per year to support Trading Standards. 

A new report by the ACS claims that additional funding for Trading Standards in England should start at £30.7m in year one, rise to £36.2m in year two and then gradually reduce. 

Between 2020 and 2023, the amount of illegal vape devices seized by Trading Standards increased 19 times, with a total of 4.18 million illegal vapes seized during the last three years. 

The ACS’s new research also highlights that officers will need to seize around 20 million vape devices over the next five years to make a meaningful impact on the illicit vaping market. 

James Lowman ACS chief executive commented: “This report focuses on a key and under-resourced part of enforcement: Trading Standards officers with a dedicated brief to tackle the illicit vape market on high streets, outside school gates and online. So far the government is committing less than £10m a year to this, and this report shows that we need three times this investment to make a significant dent on the problem of illegal vapes being sold in our communities.

“The illicit vaping market is set to receive a boost when disposable vapes are banned in less than 12 months time, so we need to ensure that enforcement activity is robust enough to deal with the problem. We also need enforcement to be carried out in the strongest possible terms, as we do not believe that the current fixed penalty notices for selling vapes go far enough to act as an effective deterrent.”