Our Managing Director Robert Sidebottom shares his view.
The recent government announcement regarding the crackdown on rogue firms targeting children with free samples and the increased efforts to keep illegal vapes out of schools is a significant step forward. As a member of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), I applaud these measures, which have long been advocated for by organisations like the UKVIA. However, while this progress is commendable, it is essential to question whether it goes far enough to address the concerning link between youth vaping and illegal vape products.
Holding Rogue Retailers Accountable:
It is long overdue that proactive steps are taken to hold rogue retailers accountable and shut down the illegal vape market. Not only does this market pose a significant threat to the health of consumers, particularly young people, but it also results in millions of pounds of VAT and duty evaded. The scale of the illegal vape market should not be underestimated; it rivals, if not surpasses, the size of the regulated market. A simple visit to independent corner shops in the UK will reveal the availability of large puff devices, sometimes openly displayed.
Protecting Youth from Exploitation:
While the regulated legal industry maintains a firm stance that their life-changing and life-saving vape products are not intended for children, certain retailers are driven by profit, even at the expense of selling to minors. With profit margins as high as 60% and minimal risk of enforcement action, some unscrupulous retailers have taken advantage of the current landscape. To effectively deter such practices, a high probability of being caught and facing consequences is necessary.
Questionable Focus on Colours:
The government’s announcement has raised concerns by singling out the colour of products as being child-appealing. It is worth noting that colours are prevalent in numerous consumer products without automatically being considered child-appealing. While the argument for paler appearances holds little tangible weight in my opinion, products featuring LED lights and glow-in-the-dark elements undeniably cater to a child’s visual appeal and warrant attention.
Regulating Nicotine-Free Products:
The decision to ban the sale of nicotine-free products to individuals under 18 is a positive step forward. However, it is essential to go beyond this and subject nicotine-free products to the same rigorous testing and analytical standards as their nicotine-containing counterparts. The lack of regulation surrounding nicotine-free products is illogical and should be rectified. I urge the government to listen to industry experts and include these products within the comprehensive regulatory framework.
Strengthening Enforcement and Regulation:
To effectively combat the illegal vape market, enforcement agencies require increased resources and support. Retailers’ ability to verify a product’s compliance with the MHRA through accessible online databases should eliminate claims of ignorance and hold them accountable for their actions. Furthermore, fines for selling illicit vape products must be reviewed, ensuring they are sufficient to discourage illegal activities. Adequate resourcing and stringent quality checks of vape submissions will enhance consumer safety and remove questionable products swiftly.
Addressing Consumer Demand:
The issue of larger devices, which are often illegal, should not be ignored. Consumers desire more bang for their buck and longevity in their vaping experience, leading them to opt for these devices. The regulations must either adapt to address consumer demands or be enforced more rigorously to deter the use and availability of such devices in store and online.
The government’s recent actions against rogue firms exploiting children with vaping are commendable. However, it is imperative to maintain a critical stance and strive for comprehensive solutions. Inclusion of nicotine-free products in the regulatory framework, stronger enforcement measures, and addressing consumer demand for larger devices are crucial steps toward protecting consumers, especially young people, and eradicating the illegal vape market. The time for action is now, and we must ensure that legal, life-changing vape products are only available to responsible adult users.
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