Read the full trading standards report from CTSI here: New report shows fewer retailers sell e-cigs to children.
Vaping isn’t black and white
Those in the know about vaping understand it’s a bit of a grey area. It certainly isn’t the route to hell that the media would have you believe. But of course, it isn’t something everyone should take up, either. Vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, according to the latest estimates from Public Health England.
The Department of Health agency is actually very measured in its view. They sensibly state that,
“We all agree that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking…And yet, millions of smokers have the impression that e-cigarettes are at least as harmful as tobacco.”
E-cig use by children
We want to ensure that everyone is as well-informed on vaping as possible, since they offer such a popular alternative to tobacco smoking. One area in particular where vaping is often attacked is the issue of its use by children. Critics claim that vaping is a ‘gateway drug’ into smoking. They argue that children will be enticed initially by e-cigarettes only to end up puffing packs of analogues. Once again, Public Health England has a few words on the matter:
“The current national evidence is that in the UK regular e-cigarette among youth use is almost exclusively confined to those young people who have already smoked, and youth smoking prevalence is continuing to fall.”
Their statement goes on to mention that it is an offence to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. Given the shared ingredient between traditional analogue cigarettes and e-liquids – nicotine – and the nature of vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, we of course agree that vaping is for adults only.
So we were pleased to see a recent report that e-cig sales to minors have dropped dramatically among sellers that had previously been caught out. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) conducted 260 visits in summer 2016 to newsagents, corner shops and specialist vaping stores. They found a marked improvement in compliance from earlier in the year.
There’s work to be done
‘A marked improvement’ isn’t enough though. The non-compliance rate was 25% across the visits, while tobacco’s illegal sale rate to young people is 10 per cent. The 25% figure is still far too high.
We take our regulatory compliance very seriously at Ecigwizard. We’ve always kept a logbook and our staff are strict on age verification, so we are delighted, if unsurprised, to report one of our local shops recently passed an inspection with flying colours.
Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for two of our competitors. Some businesses still have a way to go, as the CTI report acknowledges. We urge all businesses to take the matter of underage e-cigarette sales seriously.
Trading standards are key
Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, was encouraged by the report and mentioned the important role trading standards play:
“Although this review was conducted as a result of the disappointing level of compliance found in the first phase of compliance monitoring, it is encouraging to see a significant improvement with the businesses that previously failed.
Trading standards teams play a frontline role in preventing children from obtaining e-cigarettes and nicotine refills, just as they do with traditional tobacco products. This is a positive step in the right direction and shows that with the right guidance and support, businesses can demonstrate good practice when selling age restricted products.”
Primary Authority Partnership
We agree wholeheartedly that trading standards are crucial. And as such, we are part of a legally recognised partnership with the local authority. We advise and assist them with non-compliance as a Primary Authority Partner. In return, a single local council is empowered to make decisions for the entire Ecigwizard family of stores, helping us to keep on top of the regulations as quickly and efficiently as possible. We’ve found the agreement incredibly beneficial. It provides us with clear guidance on how best to achieve total compliance, as the inspection in our store demonstrates.
Vaping needs to be taken seriously. As acknowledged above, millions of people don’t really understand vaping and consider it a direct equivalent to smoking. If this attitude prevails, countless lives could miss out on the significant harm reduction which making the switch to vaping can offer. But in order for vaping to be taken seriously, the industry needs to be credible. And that is difficult when shops aren’t complying by the laws! Vape shops are in danger of harvesting an image of black market, back street deals. This is something we are working hard to dispel.
Our message to all our competitors and partners is to keep raising standards and holding themselves accountable. Vaping needs to stand on its own as a respected industry within the smoking cessation domain. We’ll keep working on our own stores and their compliance of course, and look for further opportunities to assist government and regulatory bodies where necessary, as we have with our Primary Authority Partnership.