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Vape Club report 382,573 vapes have been seized from Kent since 2021

The seizure of illegal vapes in Kent has soared in the past three years, new figures have revealed.

The county has seen the seizure of almost 400,000 illegal vapes since 2021.

Nearly 400,000 vapes have been seized in Kent. Stock image. Picture: Dorset Police
Nearly 400,000 vapes have been seized in Kent. Stock image. Picture: Dorset Police

It is in the top five of UK areas for illicit e-cigarette smuggling with 382,573 picked up, mainly at the Port of Dover.

The figures emerged as the government is poised to implement a ban on disposable vapes, supported by Kent County Council and the Local Government Association.

Ministers are increasingly concerned the pod-style single use products are aimed at the young with fruit flavours and gaudy packaging.

But the vaping industry has argued the ban will see an escalation of illegal imports and sales.

Retailer Vape Club obtained the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The business says the interception of illegal products nationally in the first four months of 2023 was seven times higher than the whole of 2021.

A Vape Club statement said: "In the south east, Kent appears in the top five for illegal vape seizures since 2021 - with 382,573 seized. The area is home to the Port of Dover, Europe's busiest ferry port, making Kent a hub for counterfeit vape imports.

There’s been a rise in the use of disposable vapes. Picture: iStock
There’s been a rise in the use of disposable vapes. Picture: iStock

"Between 2017 and 2023, local authorities seized an illegal vape from sea and airports every minute. Whereas, this rate is five times lower in local authorities with no ports - with a counterfeit vape seized every five minutes.

"The findings raise concerns about the potentially dangerous illegal vapes entering the UK at its borders. These range from products that do not comply with UK regulations and have not been through the appropriate testing to ensure safety, to counterfeits of popular brands."

The vaping industry is now calling for firmer retail clampdowns, regulation enforcement, and illegal vaping products to be treated as seriously as counterfeit cigarettes.

It claims the quantity of illegal vapes in circulation is now double that of counterfeit cigarette tobacco.

Dan Marchant, director of the Vape Club, said: "Illicit vaping products have the potential to be dangerous to the user's health. We’d advise steering clear of any retailer you’re unsure of, making sure to buy from reputable retailers."

Under UK laws, no product can equate to more than 700 puffs, so any product claiming to be above the level is likely to be illegal, he added.

Mr Marchant said: "What’s needed is a licensing scheme so proper age verification tests can be applied to every retailer. There must also be higher fines applied to every breach for the rogue sellers.

"The UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) is calling for the fines to be raised to at least £10,000, which would be a real deterrent."

In July, KCC members voted that disposable vapes should be banned on environmental grounds and because they are marketed to appeal to children.

Vapes, which are an increasingly popular alternative to tobacco, are used to inhale nicotine-infused vapour. Some critics argue it is a gateway to tobacco smoking.

In July KCC member Cllr Rory Love told members: “I am concerned about the environmental impact of disposable vapes…I am also worried about creating a new generation of people addicted to nicotine.”

John Dunne, Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “Experience shows that where blanket bans have been introduced on regulated single use vapes, there is a massive influx of illegal, untested and potentially deadly black-market products which take their place and this is in nobody’s interest."

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