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.
The number of illegal vapes seized in the first four months of 2023 was seven times higher than the amount seized during the entirety of 2021, according to the latest Freedom of Information request obtained by Vape Club, which advocates for the elimination of illegal vapes.
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.”
Councillor Hazel Simmons, MBE, Leader of Luton Council, commented:
‘’The sale of illicit tobacco, vape pens, and shisha is often linked to wider organised criminal activity, so we have good reason to be vigilant. The sale of illicit vape pens and tobacco evades tax and is unfair to honest traders.
“They also put people’s health at risk, which is particularly concerning when the traders sell to children. It is important that parents and carers engage with their children to ensure that they are not being sold nicotine-containing vape pens when under 18 years of age.”