Uncovering the growing threat of illicit vapes on UK high streets

Priyanka Jethwa investigates how convenience retailers are still falling prey to selling counterfeit and contraband cigarettes, and illicit vapes

Uncovering the growing threat of illicit on UK high streets

Earlier this year in August, Vape Retailer joined Philip Morris Limited (PML) and an external consultant on an undercover sting in Brighton to find out how prevalent the issue of illicit vapes, and counterfeit and contraband tobacco, was on UK high streets.

It’s not surprising to find that many convenience stores are still falling prey to illicit vapes, and this has been an issue widely reported on for some time. This in turn has led to negative press on the entire vape category, as some of the devices, namely disposables, contain more than legal amounts of nicotine, while also illegally infringing on popular confectionery and soft drink brands.

As a result, calls for the ban on disposables has been heavily debated on in the UK, with governments worldwide, including the UK and France, pledging action against these devices, saying that single-use vapes are targeting children with their flavour varieties and associations, and causing havoc on the environment.

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Will O’Reilly, who led the Brighton illicit trade prevention test purchase visit, said the black market for illicit products has evolved beyond counterfeit cigarettes to other nicotine products – in particular, illicit disposable vapes are now prevalent in stores across the UK.

“During our recent undercover test purchase visits in the Uncovering the growing threat of illicit on UK high streets Brighton area, the illicit trade prevention team, working on behalf of PML, made approximately 40 purchases of illicit tobacco and illicit vape products over the course of two days. This included disposable vapes with tank sizes exceeding five times the legal limit.

“Despite the most recent empty pack survey indicating Brighton & Hove has below-average prevalence of non-domestic packs, it was very easy to find and purchase illicit goods on both days of the test purchase visits, with some the disposable vape products even displayed on-counter,” he said.

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