Fed retailers have backed the government’s latest crackdown on those selling vapes to those under the age of 18.
Last week, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced changes including:
- A review into fines for those caught selling to children
- A loophole allowing ‘free samples’ to be given to children in England is to be closed
- A move to ban selling ‘nicotine-free’ vapes to under-18s
- More school police liaison officers are to be added to “keep illegal vapes out of schools”
A statement in response to the measures from Fed president Jason Birks backed the government, but also called for greater funding for trading standards to help tackle a minority of “rogue shopkeepers who will sell vape products to under 18s”.
The trade group explained the extra £3m currently pledged to help trading standards tackle the issue “was simply not enough”, comparing it to the £15m in extra funding suggested by the government-commissioned Khan review into smoking just last year.
The government measures were revealed at a visit by Sunak and UK chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty with Kent trading standards and vape product tester Kent Scientific Services on 30 May.
The head of Kent Trading Standards, Steve Rock, told attendees that the majority of illegal vapes were sold in “businesses that had no experience of selling age-restricted products”.
The view was backed by multiple Fed members. Several told Better Retailing they had reported local hardware and specialist vape shops known to be selling products to under-18s, only to be told their councils did not have the resources to investigate. The members have not been named for legal reasons.
Some Fed districts, including Scotland, have also backed tough measures to crack down on any members caught selling vapes to children.
Former district president for Scotland Ferhan Ashiq is understood to have proposed that any member convicted of personally selling a device to an under-18 at the counter should face potential expulsion from the Fed.
The public spotlight once again turning to vaping follows BBC testing of vapes seized in schools revealing dangerous levels of toxic metals including lead, nickel and chromium.
The brands tested were not identified. Sunak commented at the meeting: “I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in kids vaping and shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of schoolchildren.”