Data leads to industry calls for a stronger crackdown and tighter freight controls, as illegal vape seizures are enough for 3 to be sold every minute

The UK’s freight terminals, airports and seaports have become the unexpected frontline in the battle against the illegal vaping surge.

Major London airports, as well as the Ports of Dover and Manchester, are being targeted and used as supply routes by the capital’s unscrupulous retailers furthering the UK’s illegal vaping epidemic. These regions are the top three local authorities for the highest number of illegal vaping devices seized in 2023, Accounting for 42% of the UK’s total.

In 2023, over one and a half million illegal vapes were seized in the UK, enough for three to be sold every minute according to the 2024 Illegal Vaping Report. This report analyses the latest Freedom of Information request from 152 local authorities, obtained by Vape Club, and follows the Vape Retailer and Distributor Licensing framework launch to engage the government and authorities in developing methods to stop the vaping black market.

Kent, home to the Port of Dover, was the local authority with the highest number of illegal vapes seized, with over a quarter of a million confiscated in 2023.

Heathrow Airport’s local authority, Hillingdon, seized almost a quarter of a million illegal vapes last year. The London Borough ranked second in the UK for the number of illegal vapes seized in 2023.

Manchester Airport saw 158,434 illegal vapes seized. This comes in as Greater Manchester made up almost a quarter (22%) of the UK’s total number of illegal vapes seized in 2023. Bury New Road in Salford, also known as ‘Counterfeit Street’, is a hub for illegal products in the UK.

The findings raise concerns about the potentially dangerous illegal vapes entering the UK at its borders. The issue has been growing since the turn of the decade, since which 4.18 million illegal vapes have been seized. Between 2020 and 2023, the number of illegal vapes seized increased 19 times.

With the UK Government recently proposing a disposable vape ban, experts argue this opens more doors for the illegal vape black market. Figures show more support is needed for trading standards and local authorities to keep up with the scale of the issue.

Dan Marchant, Director of the UK’s largest vaping and vape pod retailer, Vape Club, says:

“The unregulated illegal vape trade mirrors the issues once prevalent in the cigarette black market, including youth usage, potentially dangerous products, and unregulated retail sales.

“The best deterrent for any crime is the likelihood of being caught and right now that is incredibly low, and rogue retailers are taking full advantage of this. We have to create an environment where there is much more chance of being caught.

“Currently, the maximum fine that can be handed out is £2,500 but in reality, the fines given out are much, much lower. We completely welcome the move to allow trading standards to issue on-the-spot fines, but we would like to see those fines increased to at least £10,000 and increase the fine for repeat offenders.”

Source: vape club