Up to one in three vapes sold on the high street could be illegal, Trading Standards has warned.
Rogue e-cigarettes have flooded the UK market, with 1.4tonnes seized in the last six months of 2022 in the North East of England alone.
Current regulations specify vape tanks have to have a capacity of no more than 2ml and a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml.
Any vapes with contents exceeding these amounts are illegal and should not be sold to the public, regulators say.
E-cigs — which campaigners say are purposely being targeted at children — must also follow regulations surrounding labels, displaying the manufacturer details such as a list of ingredients and relevant health warnings.
Up to one in three vape products sold on the high street are potentially illegal
1.4tonnes were seized in the last six months of 2022 in the North East of England alone
A shop of Edgware Road sells many types of e-cigarettes in pastel and bright colours
It is also illegal to sell any vaping products which don’t meet labelling requirements, even if the contents are within the legal limits.
Test purchasing, which allows Trading Standards to ensure retailers are complying with the law, suggested around one in three vape products may be ‘non-compliant’ — or illegal.
This may be because the products includes having the wrong health warning, the wrong tank size, too much nicotine or incorrect labelling.
Some stores sell devices that are more than five times the legal size, giving young users up to 3,500 puffs instead of the legal limit of between 600 and 800.
Better Retailing, a news provider for independent convenience retail, states around 138million disposable vapes are sold in the UK every year.
This suggests more than 45million non-compliant products are sold every year, the Trading Standards said.
Trading Standards is now calling for clearer direction from Government and for manufacturers to publish batch numbers of non-compliant products so retailers know what they should not be selling.
Despite warning signs on the products, the bright colours from far away could suggest they are sweets
Regulations specify vape tanks to have a capacity of no more than 2ml and a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml
Unlike tobacco the gadgets don’t need to be hidden behind shutters
Some stores sell devices that are more than five times the legal size, giving users up to 3,500 puffs of e-liquid instead of the legal limit of between 600 and 800
Some even have cartoon characters n the vape products, such as this one called Cush Man
Almost every high street now has a designated vape shop, with e-cigarettes sold for as little as £5
They are also calling for tougher sanctions for producers, suppliers and retailers who do not comply with the law.
Duncan Stephenson, of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: ‘Trading Standards teams across the country are concerned and overwhelmed by the volume of non-compliant products that are in the marketplace right now.
‘This includes products that are not meeting the regulations because they aren’t correctly labelled, may have a higher level of nicotine or could be overfilled vapes.
‘While the vast majority of non-compliance isn’t a threat to public health and safety, they aren’t meeting the standards for the products set out in law.
‘It is Trading Standards job to enforce the law and also to help advise businesses to withdraw non-compliant products from sale.
‘However the sheer scale of the non-compliant products out there is such that we would urge the Government to look again at what can be done to deter unscrupulous retailers and suppliers from pushing these products on the market place.
‘It is time to consider greater penalties for those businesses that break the law, as well as whether the sale of these products should be restricted to registered retailers.’
Trading Standards is also becoming increasingly concerned about the number of these vape products being sold to people under 18.
Despite it being illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under-18s, one in 10 secondary school pupils are now regular users.
Almost every high street now has a designated vape shop, with e-cigarettes sold for as little as £5.
Trading Standards are also becoming increasingly concerned about the number of these vape products being sold to people under 18 (file photo)
NHS Digital, which quizzed nearly 10,000 students aged 11 to 15 on their smoking, drug and drinking habits last year, found that nine per cent currently vape — the highest rate logged since the survey began in 2014
Unlike tobacco, however, the gadgets don’t need to be hidden behind shutters.
Gadgets are often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like bubble-gum and strawberry milkshake.
Marketing of the devices has been likened to that of alcopops.
But, despite health chiefs insisting it is safer than smoking, it is not risk-free.
E-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers at the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.
Despite health chiefs insisting it is safer than smoking, it is not risk-free as e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by the Medical University of Silesia
Their long-term effect on health remains a mystery and doctors fear a wave of lung disease and even cancer in the coming decades.
Experts also fear the high nicotine content might increase blood pressure and cause other heart problems.
Campaigners have called for vapes to be slapped with graphic cigarette-style warnings — which have been a mainstay of tobacco products in the UK since 2008 — to dissuade young people from picking up the habit.
Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes
How much nicotine is in an e-cigarette?
There are many different brands of e-cigarettes, containing various different nicotine levels.
The legal amount of nicotine in an e-liquid capacity in the UK is 20mg/ml equating to between 600 and 800 puffs.
The Elf Bar 600, one of Britain’s most popular vapes, is advertised as coming in nicotine strengths of 0mg, 10mg and 20mg.
How many cigarettes are ‘in’ an e-cigarette?
The Elf Bar 600 contains the equivalent to 48 cigarettes, analysts say.
It delivers 600 puffs before it needs to be thrown away, meaning, in theory, every 12.5 puffs equate to one cigarette.
Experts say for many e-cigarettes, 100 puffs equate to ten normal cigarettes.
Elf Bars are a brand of e-cigarettes often sold in snazzy colours and with child-friendly names and flavours, like blue razz lemonade and green gummy bear
Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes?
Vaping products are considered to be better than cigarettes as users are exposed to fewer toxins and at lower levels, according to the NHS.
The health service adds that vaping instead of smoking cigarettes reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease and diseases of the heart and circulation, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Public Health England, which is now defunct, published an expert independent review in 2015 concluding that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
However vaping is not risk-free, as while levels in tobacco-products are much higher, e-cigarettes still contain harmful toxins, according to a study by researchers from the Medical University of Silesia in Poland.
And Dr Onkar Mudhar, a London dentist who posts videos on TikTok, said Elf bars can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding.
He said this is because nicotine dries out your mouth and reduces saliva, causing irritation from a build-up of bacteria and food that can’t get washed away.
Nearly 350 hospitalisations due to vaping were logged in England in 2022, which are thought to be mainly down to respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, lung inflammation and, in severe cases, respiratory failure.