Toggle menu

Illegal vapes worth £30,000 seized by Trading Standards

A haul of illegal vapes and e-liquids worth more than £30,000 at retail value has been seized by St Helens Borough Council's Trading Standards.

Vape e-cigarette

Article date: 16 May 2023

Last week Trading Standards officers seized around 1,700 illegal disposable e-cigarettes from a town centre vape shop, which cannot be named for legal reasons, along with over 900 bottles of e-liquids. 

Following the seizure of illicit goods, St Helens Borough Council's Trading Standards are warning retailers to ensure all disposable e-cigarettes, e-liquids and vaping devices they sell meet UK legal requirements. 

Vaping devices and e-liquids are highly regulated by Government to control the amount of nicotine present and must be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The UK legal limit on nicotine in disposable e-cigarettes is no more than two per cent (20mg/ml) and must not exceed 2ml in capacity - around 600 'puffs'. Additionally, these products can only be sold to people aged 18 and above. 

Trading Standards had provided advice to shop back in 2022 but the business continued to sell non-compliant products, resulting in product being seized from the shop that summer. 

Despite the loss of stock, the shop has continued to sell these illegal e-cigarettes, with the watchdogs being alerted by a member of the public that the shop was selling Prime e-liquids, following the craze for Prime Hydration drinks.  

The same business sold a disposable e-cigarette to a 16-year-old in February 2023 when tested by Trading Standards working with Merseyside Police, despite having been provided with advice on age restricted products in January. During that test in February, 8 of the 10 shops tested sold an e-cigarette to the volunteer. One shop sold a 3,500 puff e-cigarette to the teenager. 

The majority of the disposable products seized contained oversized tanks, the capacities varying between 3,500 and 9,000 puffs. In terms of nicotine, one normal cigarette is the equivalent of about 12.5 puffs, making a 3,500 puff e-cigarette that costs only £13 the equivalent of around 280 cigarettes. 

Councillor Kate Groucutt, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy, Business and Skills said: While it is recognised that vaping and e-cigarettes are a useful tool to assist adults wanting to quit smoking, it is a concern that we have local businesses selling illegal products and that e-cigarettes are being sold to teenagers under 18. Our Trading Standards officers work hard to protect the public and will continue to use local intelligence to identify and take robust action against businesses that are selling illegal products.

A recent survey looking at attitudes and behaviours towards drinking, smoking, vaping and knives amongst 14-17-year-olds conducted on behalf of Trading Standards North West found that in St Helens one in seven young people now claim to vape regularly, while 52 per cent say they have tried vaping, but not a cigarette. The survey indicates that 71 per cent of the young people who vape use disposable e-cigarettes and 40 per cent purchase from a shop. The survey concludes that smoking levels in this age group are at the lowest level, at only five per cent.