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Vapes aimed at kids seized in crackdown

A photo of a Public Protection Officer with some of the e-cigarettes and vapes

Illegal vaping products apparently targeting children have been seized in a major Middlesbrough-wide crackdown.

The six-week operation by Middlesbrough Council's Trading Standards team has seen thousands of potentially dangerous devices removed from sale.

The vapes are typically sold in brightly coloured packaging and with flavours and names such as strawberry or banana milkshake, Unicorn Shake and Tiger Blood to appeal to children and young people.

It is illegal to sell nicotine inhaling products and refills - popularly known as  e- cigarettes - to anyone under 18, and it is also illegal for anyone to purchase them on their behalf.

Products removed from sale include the brands Elf, Solaz, Voopoo, Elux 3500 puffs, Hipster Glow 2000 puffs and Hipster 2600 puffs, which are illegal in relation to their design, labelling and nicotine content.

Many are also not registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, while others were also found to be counterfeit.

All tobacco products including e-cigarettes and vape products must comply with stringent tobacco control laws that require products and their packaging to comply with specific labelling including health warnings and product controls.

Any disposable e-cigarette, single-use cartridge or tank with a nicotine-containing liquid must have a maximum volume of 2ml and there must be no more than 20mg per ml of nicotine in any liquid in an e-cigarette or refill container.

Some of the seized products had tank sizes up to three times the legal limit as well as incorrect labelling, with devices lacking information including sufficient health warnings or the details of a UK-based manufacturer or importer who can be contacted in the event of a safety issue.

In an attempt to avoid detection some products did not display the nicotine content of the product.

The Trading Standards team have been told by local shop owners that retailers are being approached by mobile sellers who are selling the e-cigarettes from vans.

More than 43 retailers in Middlesbrough have been visited by Trading Standards, with nearly 4,000 products being taken off sale.

Investigations into the sale of these illegal products are ongoing. 

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council's Head of Public Protection, said: "We will continue to work with local businesses to protect fair and lawful trading practices, to raise awareness of our concerns over illegal vaping products and advise them on how to avoid buying unsafe goods.

"However, we will take appropriate enforcement action against businesses that fail to carry out appropriate product safety checks and expose their customers to unsafe vape products.

"We are particularly concerned about products, such as those we have removed from sale,  which are clearly aimed at children and young people."

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Stamping out smoking is one of the best things we can do to improve public health, and legal vapes and e-cigarettes have played a major role in that fight in recent years.

"But they need to be as safe as they can be, and we need to protect children from unscrupulous traders.

"This is a fantastic operation by Trading Standards that sends out a clear message that retailers have a duty to protect their customers - and especially young people - from harmful products."

Middlesbrough retailers wanting advice on tobacco and product safety laws in relation to vaping products are advised to contact Trading Standards by emailing the Public Protection Service at EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk.

Anyone with information on the sale of illegal tobacco or vaping products in the Middlesbrough area can message the Middlesbrough Trading Standards Facebook Page, email the Public Protection Service at EHTS@middlesbrough.gov.uk or call the reporting hotline on 01642 728223.