The UK has been flooded with two million illegal vapes from its borders since 2022 as it struggles to hold off the counterfeit vaping surge – enough for almost four to be sold every minute.
Illegal vapes seized in the first four months of 2023 were seven times higher than seizures in the entirety of 2021, according to the latest Freedom of Information request obtained by disposable vape retailer Vape Club, which advocates for eliminating illegal vapes.
Since 2021, half of all illegal vape seizures have been located in London. London is home to multiple international airports like Heathrow – its bordering London borough of Hillingdon had the most counterfeit vape seizures in 2022. Also in close proximity to Heathrow Airport, Ealing ranks as a top borough, having faced 23,300 counterfeit vape confiscations last year. Further in the capital, Westminster has featured in the top ten local authorities from 2021 to 2023.
The findings raise concerns about the potentially dangerous illegal vapes entering the UK at its borders. These range from products that do not comply with UK regulations, and have not been through the appropriate testing to ensure safety to counterfeits of popular brands.
The vaping industry is now calling for stronger clampdowns, regulation enforcement, and illegal vaping products to be treated as seriously as counterfeit cigarettes. In fact, the number of illegal vapes seized in the UK this year is over double the number of counterfeit cigarettes.
Counterfeit vapes are an issue across the whole of the UK, with most of the top offending regions located in England. Since 2021, London, the South East and North West have consistently been in the top three regions for counterfeit vape seizures, with the UK’s busiest borders having the most illegal vape imports.
Dan Marchant, Director of the UK’s largest vaping and e-liquids retailer, Vape Club, said, “Illicit vaping products have the potential to be dangerous to the user’s health.
“We’d advise steering clear of any retailer you’re unsure of, making sure to buy from reputable retailers. An illegal vape can sometimes be spotted by the product description, specifically the number of puffs being advertised.
“Under UK law, the maximum volume of e-liquid that can legally be in a vape product is 2ml, which will equate to around 500-700 puffs. Any product claiming to be more than this is usually a reliable indication that the product is not legal and has not been through the appropriate testing and safety measures.”
“The responsible side of the industry is literally begging for the authorities to enforce the regulations and take serious action against the businesses flouting the rules. What’s needed is a licensing scheme so proper age verification tests can be applied to every retailer.
“There must also be higher fines applied to every breach for the rogue sellers. The UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) is calling for the fines to be raised to at least £10,000, which would be a real deterrent.”
Commenting on recent raids in July, councillor Syed Ghani, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety added, “If people are smoking illegal vapes, tobacco or cigarettes, it means that they’re not aware of what they’re putting into their body, and this may have an adverse effect on their health and wellbeing.
“It’s the council’s job to make sure we’re protecting our residents, so if we’re aware of businesses not selling approved products correctly, we will take enforcement action.”