The UK Vape Industry Association (UKVIA) has proposed fines of up to £10,000 for retailers who sell vape products to under 18s.
The trade association said despite the laws already in place, “unscrupulous retailers” were continuing to sell to children, and the scale of the issue had left regulators struggling to police the problem.
As a result, it has proposed three measures to be put into place: on the spot fines of up to £10,000 for retailers who sell to under-18s (currently £2,500); a compulsory retail registration scheme, with stringent qualifiers to join, and education programmes for those selling vapes and the ability for trading standards to rescind registration for repeat offenders; and finally, a ‘National Test Purchasing Scheme’, whereby retailers are regularly tested to see whether they are selling to under-18s.
The UKVIA proposed that fines are ploughed back to ensure adequate financing for trading standards to enable them to effectively police the growth of rogue traders who sell vapes to children.
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It explained that mandating that all retailers are registered adds a further tool to allow trading standards to police them; not only will all retailers be compelled to put in place age checks, but will also be made aware of the potential penalties for getting it wrong, including losing their ability to sell vape products. Both the registration and fines would also cover distributors selling illegal or non-compliant vaping products.
Finally, all retailers will be regularly tested to see whether they are adequately age checking customers. The test purchasing cost would form part of the registration fees which would also be used to fund heightened enforcement by trading standards.
The proposals come in the same month that the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards (CTSI) issued a statement calling for urgent support and clarification from the government “as the scale of non-compliant vapes and the concerns around underage sales are snowballing and getting out of hand.”
The CTSI said that “trading standards teams are spread very thinly enforcing laws on a range of issues, from food standards to product safety. We need more boots on the ground to help enforce regulations.”
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John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA, said: “While vaping plays a critical role in reducing the number of smokers in the UK and saving the taxpayer millions in the process, it is completely unacceptable for retailers to be selling these products to children.
“It’s time to get tough on those who are getting away scot-free and making lots of money from continuously breaking the law. No more knuckle wrapping, time to hit the offenders where it hurts hardest – in the pocket.
“By allowing trading standards to police the retailers more robustly and more effectively, I believe we can make a dramatic difference to the issue of vaping amongst young people. These proposals are designed not only to deter rogue retailers, but to allow the Government, through trading standards enforcement officers around the country, to properly police the problem.
Trading standards it said welcomed these proposals. “The rapid rise in the sale of vape products to children and indeed the prevalence of non-compliant or counterfeit products has meant that trading standards are not effectively equipped for the task in hand. Our colleagues are out every day dealing with these issues, but do not have the adequate numbers or resource to properly counter the scourge of rogue traders. Greater resource, stronger powers and bigger penalties would have a major impact on our ability to police and cut the source of supplies to young people and protect our children’s future,” they added.
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