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

£13k worth of illegal vapes have been seized during ‘Operation Hunter’ by City of York Council’s trading standards team.

The team targeted businesses selling oversized e-cigarettes, which are non-compliant because they contain more than 2ml of nicotine liquid. Typically, legal vapes 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 centre businesses – worth £13,152.

As part of a separate operation, trading standards recently carried out a series of underage test purchases. With one business in York being caught selling to a child. It is illegal to sell vapes to anyone under the age of 18 years old.

Today, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was introduced in Parliament, where children turning 15 this year or younger will never legally be able to be sold tobacco. This will ensure that future generations are protected from the harmful impacts of smoking and save thousands of lives as well as billions of pounds for the NHS.

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

Last year, the council reacted to a business selling vapes in the sweet aisle, which resulted in trading standards visiting them to discuss the position of the products. They have since moved the products to another aisle. Please note there was no concern over these being illegal vapes

This caused concern because there’s been a rise in teenagers vaping and smoking in York.

A citywide public health campaign reaching all secondary schools and higher education settings was launched last year to get the message out there that free help is available for any teens to quit vaping.

An NHS Digital national campaign1 surveyed around 10,000 school pupils aged 11 to 15 years of age. The findings are from 2022 and show a decrease in numbers of school children taking drugs and smoking cigarettes, but a rise in vaping, with 9 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds currently using e-cigarettes.

Closer to home, the council surveyed 4,267 children and young people from across 37 schools, as part of its York Schools Survey2 between October 2021 and January 2022.

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

Of those surveyed:

  • 19 per cent of secondary and sixth form pupils had used an e-cigarette and 10 per cent had used conventional cigarettes.
  • 26 per cent of year 12 pupils have tried or used cigarettes.
  • 52 per cent of year 12 pupils do not know where to get help to stop smoking.
  • 12 per cent of pupils said they wanted help to stop smoking. This rises significantly to 44 per cent in year 12.

Anyone aged 12 to 17 years old can ask their school for support or contact the health trainers direct at:

Or message them at: 07789 946 384 (please seek permission from your parent/carer or bill payer).

Cllr Jo Coles, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care, said: “High levels of nicotine in illegal vapes can be really damaging to our health, and no vapes are suitable for children, so it’s really worrying that shops in York have been selling them, and selling vapes to under 18s. Illegal vapes have no place in our city and we must ensure our children are protected from them. Huge 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 will ensure that any items being sold illegally are removed from sale. The message to businesses in York is ‘don’t sell them here’. If you do, we will seize them. If you have concerns about what you suspect to be illegal activity, you can email  visit the website  or report via Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 0808 2231133.”

‘‘We can also provide advice to local businesses on ensuring products are sold lawfully and have launched a scheme which includes staff training to help businesses comply with the law. The first year of membership is free to the first ten businesses to apply.’’

Phil Truby, public health specialist at City of York Council, said: “We urge anyone looking to quit smoking to first get in touch with the health trainer team, who can provide free 1-2-1 support and nicotine replacement therapy including e-cigs and patches.

“Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses. As consumer products, cigarettes kill 1 in every 2 users.”