IBVTA response to CTSI statement on current issues with the sale of vapes in the UK
The Independent British Vape Trade Association applauds the statement made by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) today on the distribution of vape products that are not compliant with UK regulations.
We share the CTSI’s concerns about non-compliant products’ lack of suitable market surveillance, and their association with youth uptake of vaping.
Vape products are intended to offer a less harmful alternative for adults that would otherwise be smoking and are well known to have been instrumental in driving down UK smoking rates for more than 10 years. Anything that can help empower enforcement bodies in ensuring better compliance across the sector is badly needed.
The IBVTA has long held deep discomfort about non-compliant products’ distortion of the marketplace in age-of-sale compliance, because they are principally sold through channels to market that care little about the legality of sourcing, or sale, of the goods they carry.
Products that are filled many times over the legal maximum also offer consumers better perceived value for money that fully compliant products cannot hope to match. This means the playing field is never level, and that the public and media perception of the compliant vape sector is unfairly damaged. The IBVTA would therefore strongly support the statement that greater resources are needed.
While broadly supporting the CTSI’s statement, the IBVTA is also concerned by some of the assertions made within it. If there is any substantiated evidence of a level of sales of non-compliant vape products in the UK at 1 in 3, we are unaware of it. A similar figure of 1 in 3 is asserted in the statement for the number of UK shops selling vape products “to those knowingly under the age of sale.” This seems improbable to us.
A huge number of large grocers and named convenience chains now sell vape products, along with many hundreds of dedicated vape shops with full staff training on age of sale verification. That as many as 1 in 3 shops would knowingly sell vape products to those under the age of 18 seems quite unlikely.
It also seems very unlikely to the IBVTA that manufacturers of products intentionally placed on the UK market with an e-liquid content of 5-10 ml, when the regulations limit this to 2 ml, would assist in providing those that illegally import such products with batch numbers to identify the products’ non-compliance, as suggested in the CTSI’s statement.
It cannot be in those manufacturers’ interest that retailers can identify whether the products can be legally sold, as they know they cannot be legally sold when they produce and export them to the UK. Such supply is intentionally illegal, and to place any reliance on the legitimate industry to provide this market intelligence does not seem reasonable.
The IBVTA strongly supports that a review of the UK’s vape regulations is long overdue. However, such a review would not change the fact that blatant and obvious non-compliance of many products with current regulations has been more than apparent in the UK market for well over 18 months now.
It would seem sensible to ensure that the existing regulations are adequately policed before considering changing or adding to them. We therefore wholeheartedly support the request for better resourcing and enablement of enforcement through Trading Standards.
IBVTA Chief Executive, Gillian Golden, said: “We will continue to work pro-actively with regulators and enforcement bodies to strive for a level playing field on which the illegal trade is stamped out and reputable businesses who abide by UK regulations can successfully operate. We hope Government heeds these calls for Trading Standards teams to be better resourced.”