Research finds illicit vapes and tobacco “widely available”

Research finds illicit vapes and tobacco “widely available”

It has been revealed that illegal tobacco and vapes are still widely available in stores throughout the UK, with retailers selling the illicit items in their stores.

Research conducted by JTI (Japan Tobacco International) showed that of 186 stores visited this spring, just over half were found selling a mixture of illegal cigarettes, Roll Your Own (RYO) tobacco or vapes.

JTI carried out a round of test purchasing and discovered that the selling of illegal tobacco and vapes “seems to be everywhere”.

During the operation, counterfeit RYO was bought for £3.50 per pack, less than a tenth of the price of the genuine product. Over-filled vapes, declaring themselves to have 3500 puff capacities were also purchased.

All information gathered by JTI UK is subsequently made available to HMRC and Trading Standards in anticipation that they take forward enforcement action and prosecutions.

The findings follow the recent announcement by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak that the UK Government will crackdown on vape marketing to children. A loophole which allows retailers to give free vapes to children is set to be closed under plans by the government to curb their use among children.


Speaking to Neighbourhood Retailer, notable Northern Ireland retailers said they have found a remarkable growth in sales of vapes over the last 12 months, with many of the products marketed to attract the attention of young people.

Alastair Connor, Area Manager for Lynchs Foodstores, told NR that while he hasn’t heard of any illicit sales, he has seen many young people in the area using vapes.

“I have seen children and young people coming in and asking for vapes, but we have refused them. Our tills show all refusals for vapes, tobacco, alcohol and lotto and logs all those refusals,” said Alastair.

“I have not heard of any of our stores getting test purchases for vaping, but if other people are selling illegal vapes in the first place, they will not care about selling them to young people.

“Our staff are all trained and we do training on age restrictions every six months. We do not want to break the law and are very clear of the consequences.”

Store Manager at Hughes Food Hall in Camlough, Jolene McAllister said staff in their store were also trained in refusing underage purchases.

“What I have heard from schools and people in the community is that vaping from aged 13 onwards is colossal, there are so many doing it,” Jolene told NR.

“Even when walking through the village to work, I could see all the boxes of one particular brand lying on the ground, so they also don’t care about littering.”

Ian Howell, Fiscal and Regulatory Affairs Manager at JTI.


Ian Howell, Fiscal and Regulatory Affairs Manager at JTI said that the illegal sale of tobacco and vapes “seems to be everywhere” adding that “it’s very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle”.

“While there are new powers coming into effect later this year that will allow HMRC to issue ‘on-the-spot’ penalties of up to £10,000 against those selling illegal tobacco, it is hugely disappointing that they will not, despite earlier indications, be extended to Trading Standards where they could have the greatest impact.

“Retailers can play a vital role in combatting the illicit trade and our job at JTI UK is to ensure that they are knowledgeable and confident in communicating the dangers of illegal products to their customers.”