£13k worth of illegal vapes seized by trading standards – City of York Council

City of York City Council's trading standards team seized £13,000 worth of illegal vapes during 'Operation Hunter'.

The team focused on companies that sell large e-cigarettes, which do not comply with regulations because they contain more than 2 ml of liquid nicotine. Typically, legal vaporizers produce no more than 600 puffs.

Operation Hunter took place over two days, where trading standards seized 1,096 non-compliant e-cigarettes from three city center businesses, worth £13,152.

As part of a separate operation, Trading Standards recently carried out a series of test purchases of minors. A company in York was caught selling to a child. It is illegal to sell vaporizers to anyone under 18 years of age.

Today, the bill on tobacco and vaporizers was introduced in Parliament, according to which children who turn 15 this year or younger will never be able to legally sell tobacco. This will ensure that future generations are protected from the harmful effects of smoking and will save thousands of lives, as well as billions of pounds for the NHS.

These businesses in York were specifically targeted because trading standards were receiving complaints or intelligence from the public or other authorities such as the police.

Last year the council reacted to a company selling vapes in the sweets aisle, which resulted in trading standards visiting them to discuss the position of the products. They have since moved the products to another aisle. Note that there was no concern that these were illegal vaporizers.

This caused concern because there has been an increase in the number of teenagers smoking and vaping in York.

A citywide public health campaign was launched last year, reaching every high school and higher education setting to spread the message that free help is available for any teen to stop vaping.

A national NHS Digital campaign1 surveyed about 10,000 schoolchildren between 11 and 15 years old. The findings are from 2022 and show a decrease in the number of schoolchildren using drugs and smoking cigarettes, but an increase in vaping: 9 percent of children aged 11 to 15 currently use e-cigarettes.

Closer to home, the council surveyed 4,267 children and young people from 37 schools, as part of its York Schools Survey.2 between October 2021 and January 2022.

The results represented 63 percent of all children and young people in the selected year groups.

Of the participants:

  • 19 percent of middle school and sixth graders had used an e-cigarette and 10 percent had used conventional cigarettes.
  • 26 per cent of Year 12 students have tried or used cigarettes.
  • 52 per cent of Year 12 students do not know where to get help to stop smoking.
  • 12 percent of students said they wanted help quitting smoking. This increases significantly to 44 per cent in year 12.

Anyone between 12 and 17 years old can ask their school for help or contact the health coaches. Or send them a message on: 07789 946 384 (ask permission from your parent/caregiver or bill payer).

Cllr Jo Coles, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult social care, said: “The high levels of nicotine in illegal vapes can be really harmful to our health, and no vapes are suitable for children, so it is really worrying that shops in York have been selling them, and also to under 18s .

Illegal vapes have no place in our city and we must make sure our children are protected from them. “Many thanks to our trading standards team and the public who raised the alarm about this.”

Matt Boxall, head of public protection at City of York Council, said: “We will always act on information from the public and ensure that any items sold illegally are removed from sale.

The message to York businesses is "don't sell here". If you do, we will confiscate them. If you have concerns about what you suspect is illegal activity, you can send an email public.protection@york.gov.uk visit the website https://www.york.gov.uk/TradingStandards or report through the Citizen Assistance consumer helpline at 0808 2231133.”

''We can also provide advice to local businesses to ensure products are sold legally and have launched a scheme including staff training to help businesses comply with the law. The first year of membership is free for the first ten companies to apply.”

Phil Truby, public health specialist at City of York Council, said: “We urge anyone who wants to quit smoking to first contact the team of health educators who can provide free 1-2-1 support and nicotine replacement therapy, including e-cigarettes and patches.


“Smoking is a leading cause of death and illness in the UK. Every year, around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, and many more live with debilitating smoking-related diseases. As a consumer product, cigarettes kill 1 in 2 consumers.”

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