Recent enforcement action on under-age sales of e-cigarettes in the UK has shown that there is still a lack of understanding over changes to the law.
Nine out of 15 shops tested in a recent operation by Plymouth City Council in southwest England failed to check the age of customers.
The UK made nicotine e-cig sales to under-18s illegal in October 2015. However, at the time, enforcement agents expressed concerns over a lack of awareness about the change in regulation and the ability of local trading standards bodies – the agencies in charge of enforcing such regulations – to enforce the change.
Trading standards advise retailers to be vigilant and responsible when selling e-cigs and e-liquids containing nicotine, applying the same checks as to the sale of any other age-restricted products. Selling these products to children could lead to a fine of up to £2500 (€3200, $3600), said Plymouth’s trading standards agency.
A Plymouth trading standards spokesperson told ECigIntelligence that the nine shops in question had been let off with a warning this time but that the agency planned to enforce the penalty in future test operations.
The council offered free training to shops and uptake has been quite high, but attendance has largely consisted of shops that sell alcohol and tobacco products, the spokesperson added.
“The law was changed last year to protect young people and we want to work with retailers in the first instance to raise their awareness of their legal obligations,” said Plymouth councillor Philippa Davey. “We asked pupils in year 10 if they had ever used an E Cigarette – and 18% of them replied that they had done so, so this is a very real concern for Plymouth.”
What This Means: For all its talk of compliance, Plymouth Council still does not list e-cigarettes as a product that should not be sold to under-age customers on its Website.
Nonetheless, the high failure rate among retailers is concerning, although this action did cover only a few in one city.
– Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Roy Blumenthal