Alarming Lack of Prosecutions for Underage/Illicit Vape Sales Revealed in New Report
A forthcoming research report by Arcus Compliance has shed light on the alarming lack of prosecutions for underage and illicit vape sales in major UK cities. The preliminary findings, which cover the period from 2021 to April 2023, indicate a woefully inadequate response to this concerning issue. With just two successful prosecutions across six major cities and a total fine amount of £1,878, it is clear that urgent action is needed to address this problem effectively.
The report’s findings reveal a startling lack of successful prosecutions for underage and illicit vape sales. Despite the shared population of nearly three million people across the six major UK cities, only two shops were prosecuted during the studied period. This statistic is deeply troubling, considering the potential health risks associated with underage vaping and the sale of the use of illicit vape products.
Equally concerning is the inadequacy of fines imposed on offenders during the timeframe under review. The total fines handed out across the six cities amounted to a mere £1,878. To put this figure into perspective, it is significantly lower than the current maximum fine for a single offender, which stands at £2,500. Moreover, it falls considerably short of the on-the-spot fines of £10,000 that the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has been advocating for.
The report also examined the activities of Trading Standards teams in various London boroughs. Of the five councils that responded to the study, only one successful prosecution was reported, resulting in a fine of £1,000. These figures highlight a lack of consistent enforcement efforts and the need for greater support for Trading Standards teams across the country to combat the illicit vape trade effectively.
The preliminary findings from Arcus Compliance’s research report serve as a wake-up call for the urgent need to address the issue of underage and illicit vape sales. Greater enforcement measures are required to protect young people from the possible dangers associated with vaping at a young age. It is imperative that Trading Standards teams receive increased support, resources, and funding to effectively tackle this problem.
Additionally, the disparity between the current fines and those advocated by the UKVIA underscores the importance of revisiting and potentially raising the penalties for offenders involved in the illegal sale of vaping products. Stricter fines would act as a deterrent and send a clear message that such activities will not be tolerated.
Robert Sidebottom, Managing Director of Arcus Compliance, said the ‘concerning lack’ of prosecutions and penalties shown by this data demonstrates that the ‘system is in serious distress’.
He said: “Trading Standards have been crying out for additional resources and support for some time and there’s no doubt as to why – without enough boots on the ground, too many rogue traders are getting past thinly spread enforcement officials.
“It’s staggering to see just how few prosecutions there have been and how low the levels of fines are given the huge amount of concern over youth and illicit vaping. We know that Trading Standards departments want and need to be doing more.”
Sidebottom added: “The government recently pledged £3 million to fund a dedicated vape task force as part of its crackdown on the sector, but this is a far cry from the final solution and more intervention is clearly needed.”
Sidebottom questioned whether actions like fines, prosecutions and product seizures were being tracked properly as cases continue to crop up in the media but didn’t seem to translate to the FOI feedback.
He also asked whether there were regional teams specifically tackling illicit vape trade or whether forces were spread across other age restricted areas like alcohol as well and suggested it might be time for a more focused approach.
The preliminary findings of Arcus Compliance’s forthcoming research report present a distressing picture of the state of enforcement regarding underage and illicit vape sales in the UK. With minimal prosecutions and fines that fall far below the desired levels, urgent action is necessary. Strengthening enforcement efforts, supporting Trading Standards teams, and imposing more significant fines on offenders are critical steps toward safeguarding young people and curbing the illicit vape trade. The findings from the upcoming report must serve as a catalyst for change to protect the health and well-being of not just the nation’s youth but the adult consumer.
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