Cracking down on Illegal vape sales

Over 1,400 illegal vapes, and illicit tobacco products were seized in a single day of operations by West Sussex County Council’s Trading Standards officers.

Illegal vapes and tobacco seized from shops in Littlehampton and Bognor

Release date: 17 October 2023

The seizures occurred as two new West Sussex Public Health-funded enforcement officers took up their roles, focusing on the sale of illegal vapes and illicit tobacco. In the officers' first operation, they ‘filled a car’ with illegal vapes and tobacco from just three shops in Littlehampton and Bognor. These new officers are also supporting the work of the team to tackle the increasing sales of vapes to children by rogue businesses.

Whilst concern has risen across the county, issues around illegal vaping remains a national problem with underage vaping and illegal vape sales recently debated in the House of Commons. In light of this, West Sussex County Council launched this latest initiative, between Trading Standards and Public Health, aiming to combat the problem.

Cllr Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, said: “The Council is determined to continue its crackdown on the illegal sale of vapes, and other age restricted products being sold to children across the county. Working in conjunction with alcohol licencing authorities, Trading Standards will seek a review of any business’s alcohol licence if we catch them selling age-restricted products to children.

“Businesses should think very carefully about putting their licence at risk by selling illegal vapes and other restricted products to children for a short-term financial gain. Losing your alcohol licence can have a significant and devastating financial impact on any business and it is just not worth it. This initiative also helps us deliver on one of our Council Plan priorities, which is keeping people safe from vulnerable situations.” 

Since January 2022, there have been more than 15 alcohol licence reviews following reports to Trading Standards in West Sussex, resulting in varied outcomes from total revocation to suspensions or additional licensing conditions. A recent case in Worthing resulted in the revocation of a shop's licence after the sale of alcohol to children, coupled with the seizure of illegal vapes. Trading Standards say that any businesses found to be breaking the rules will be subject to enforcement action including prosecution and any illegal stock will be seized and forfeited.

Cllr Bob Lanzer, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing said: “Vapes should not be used by children and young people, as nicotine is addictive, and the long-term risks are not known yet. Marketing and selling vapes to children is completely unacceptable; I am pleased that our joint initiative is having a significant impact in tackling this problem. This work contributes to the delivery of the Smokefree West Sussex Action Plan and the continuing successful partnership work between Public Health and Trading Standards on illicit tobacco and alcohol.

“I would also urge people to take part in the government’s recently launched consultation ‘Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping’ which closes on 6 December 2023, to give their views and help shape future policy on vaping and smoking.”

West Sussex County Council urges the public to report any shops involved in selling illegal non-compliant vapes or sales to children. Residents can use the official online reporting tool, linked here, to directly inform Trading Standards.

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