The statement that vaping is 95% safer than smoking is under threat due to a tsunami of illegal,
untested disposable vape products being sold by rouge retailers in the UK which may pose a future
risk to consumer health.
A recent list shared by a single trading standards officer has exposed the sheer scale of illegal
disposable vape products that are being sold openly in the UK, the vast majority of the vape
products on the list have not achieved ‘submitted notified’ status with the Medicines and Healthcare
products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and as such may not* have been tested for banned substances
in accordance with UK regulations. If for example any of these vape products contain a banned
substance then the core message that vaping is 95% safer than smoking may unravel very quickly
and most likely the regulated vape industry will have difficulty differentiating itself from the
potential harm of these illegal products.
The Trading Standards list which is available to download here comprises of over 130 different
brands of disposable vape devices that do not comply with UK regulations and as such may present a
risk to consumer health.
Illicit vape products and youth access were recently discussed at the United Kingdom Vaping
Industry Association (UKVIA) Forum held in November 2022 and it was recognised that these two
issues which are intrinsically linked are the biggest threat to the UK vape industry and its aspirations
to go smoke free by 2030.
John Dunn, Director General of the UKVIA said. “Our members work very hard and at great cost to
ensure that the vape products they manufacture, and sell are as safe as possible for the consumer.
Illegal vape products not only posing a potential risk to the consumer but also undermine the positive
impact that regulated vape products have on improving the lives of millions of former smokers. We
have called on the government to increase fines for rogue sellers of illegal vape products and to
execute a vape licensing scheme, we have not had a response to date.”
VapeClick asked a vape industry leader why there was such as high level of illegal activity in the vape space.
“The reason there is so much illegal activity is that these are small, high value, easily moved
addictive products which when paired with relatively complex regulations and a limited capacity to
enforce makes for a ripe black market. It is difficult to apportion blame to one area of the supply
chain, or provide a quick fix for this issue. The rouge manufacturers in China are aware of the UK
regulations, rogue wholesalers who purchase these items know they are illegal and rogue retailers
are focussed on profit over consumer safety. We need to be clear that many of these untested
products are getting into the hands of children. We need to urgently provide enforcement officers
with the resources to deal with these dangerous products” Robert Sidebottom, Managing Director at
Eco Vape Ltd & Non-Executive Director for Arcus Compliance
It should also be noted that the manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of these illegal products
are highly unlikely to comply with disposal regulations such as Waste Electrical and Electronic
Equipment recycling (WEEE) putting further pressure on the regulated vape industry whom may be
seen as guilty by association.
The time for action is now, the vape industry, government, enforcement agencies and retailers need
to work together for the protection of the consumer, to reduce youth access and ensure the
message that vaping is 95% safer than cigarettes does not go up in smoke.
*a small number of the products on the Trading Standards list are intended for sale in the United
States of America, and as such will have been the subject of strict testing. A few products such as the
Frunk Bar have been tested and submitted with the MHRA however the pack presented in the report
has been withdraw from the MHRA submitted notified list.
The Trading Standards list which is available to download here List of non compliant disosable products.