Confusion is growing over the legal status of disposable vaping devices after major wholesalers were ordered to remove leading brands from sale by trading standards officers.

betterRetailing can reveal “targeted” visits by trading standards officers took place in at least 12 wholesaler depots across Glasgow over the past two months in response to evidence of alleged malpractice.

A spokesperson from Glasgow City Council said disposable vaping products it claimed were illegal were uncovered “in a broad range of places” visited. “Our main focus has been on wholesale, and the problem is widespread. It is mainly one of the imported brands with variants that do not comply with UK standards rather than counterfeit products,” the spokesperson said.

Typically, disposable vapes do not comply because of a product’s tank capacity, excess concentration of nicotine or due to packaging missing the required information. The maximum penalty for stocking non-compliant stock is £5,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

EXCLUSIVE: Scottish government issues warning about illicit vaping products

United Wholesale’s Maxwell Road branch in Glasgow was one of the 12 sites inspected, and the firm confirmed it was ordered to remove 28 packs from sale by trading standards officers, including Geek Bar, Elf Bar and Glamz Bar branded lines.

Managing director Chris Gallacher told betterRetailing it had “put its trust in our suppliers to supply stock that is legally correct to sell in the UK”.

He added: “This has been confirmed by our suppliers and they are in contact with the authority to understand the reason for removal.”

Wholesaler Clyde Importers were also visited last month by officers who asked for the removal of 90% of the wholesaler’s disposable vaping stock due to non-compliant packaging. “I went back to my suppliers and some of them have rectified the problem with new packaging.

“All these products are approved, but many didn’t have the nicotine dose on the box,” said the company’s vape buyer, Azim Kessam.

Trading standards ‘conducting inspections’ in stores due to rise in illegal disposable vaping products

Asked about trading standards’ orders to remove Glamz Bar lines from sale, the company’s managing director, Gulam Hussein, told betterRetailing: “All my stock is compliant, but I am having products sent back because there is no clarity around packaging size and information. I am happy to make changes, but we need a standard format across the UK.”

All vaping products must have their ingredients approved by the Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to be legal to sell in the UK, but this does not guarantee compliance with the UK’s other vaping laws.

Hussein said Glamz Bar’s products had been approved by the MHRA, but the regulator was yet to add them to its online list of approved products.

The MHRA told betterRetailing 4,000 compliant products have been listed in 2021, with compliant submissions being published in two-to-three weeks.

A spokesperson confirmed no vaping line is legal until it makes the MHRA published list, and that it was providing “direct support” to trading standards teams.

Advice for stores on checking disposable vaping lines shared by the Scottish government

  • All e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be notified to the MHRA before they can be sold. Notification status can be checked through the MHRA website – cms.mhra.gov.uk/ecig
  • Products must have an address in the UK for the importer or manufacturer
  • Nicotine content should not be more than 2% and they must not contain more than 2ml of liquid (this is usually about 600 puffs)
  • Each product must have the health warning, comply with the labelling requirements under Tobacco and Related Product Regulations 2016, and come with an information leaflet

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