Poor legislation and “unscrupulous operators” in the vaping market are putting shopkeepers at risk, according to regulatory experts.

TPD 2 legislation came into force last May and required e-liquids containing nicotine to include child safety measures, banned certain chemicals and made health warnings mandatory.

However, those without nicotine remain a largely unregulated “grey area” with many retailers who spoke with Retail Express unsure of the age restrictions, legality and origins of many of the products on the market.

This included widespread sales of knock-off products designed to look like brands popular with children, as seen by Retail Express (pictured).

Test shopping data from Serve Legal showed that more retailers than ever are failing to challenge customers for age verification on e-cigarettes. In 2015 just one in ten shop staff failed to ask for ID, two years later, nearly a third of shop staff allowed potentially underage customers to buy e-cigarette products unchallenged.

Serve Legal director Ed Heaver said a lack of clear regulation and training was behind the rise. “These products show there’s a need for clarity on what the age restriction is and the Government needs to take a closer look at how these are being advertised,” he added.

Underage Sales managing director Anne-Marie Canham confirmed to Retail Express that all e-liquids with or without nicotine should be 18 restricted.

Retailers react: How much do retailers know about vaping age restrictions?

Matt Taylor, founder of Medic Pro Limited, which advises suppliers on vaping legislation, told Retail Express that while nicotine products can be checked for legitimacy using the Government’s ECID database, there is “not much regulators can do currently” about nicotine-free versions.

However, Taylor said this is unlikely to last. “Trading standards are now actively looking at, checking and contacting e-liquid suppliers. It may take a couple of months, but it looks likely that they will begin to take action on nicotine-free e-liquids.”

It’s not just trading standards who are watching closely. Responding to e-liquid imitations of its Ribena brand, Mary Guest, general counsel at Lucozade Ribena Suntory said: “As a leading manufacturer committed to safeguarding our retail customers and consumers, we pursue all appropriate measures available to us to protect our brands from infringement.”

A Mars spokesperson said the copycats were:  “unauthorised, grossly deceptive and irresponsible.” They warned: “The use by any retailer is inappropriate and must cease.”

Waz Abbas stocks more than 200 e-liquid lines at Waz’s, his convenience store in
Broxburn, Fife. He told Retail Express that price pressures since TPD 2 had increased the amount of questionable stock in the market.

“We now only stock liquids from wholesalers because it’s so easy to make a mistake in stocking imported or home-made brands. There needs to be more regulation on back-room labs making these products in kitchens because there’s no oversight in what is in them,” he said.

Read more: How to make your store a vaping destination

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