In a court hearing held on 7th July 2023 at Kirklees Magistrates Court, Mrs Ruqueya Iqbal, proprietor of Cloud Empire, and Mr Amreek Singh, Director of Elite E-cigs Ltd, faced charges for selling e-cigarettes to a 15-year-old individual. The sale of e-cigarettes to anyone below the age of 18 is considered a criminal offence. Additionally, the e-cigarettes sold were deemed illegal due to their oversized capacity, containing more than the permitted 2ml of nicotine liquid. The charges brought against both defendants were in violation of the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015, The Children and Families Act 2014, and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.
During the proceedings, the Magistrates acknowledged that selling an oversized e-cigarette carries a more severe penalty. Consequently, the focus of the penalties imposed was primarily on this aspect. It was mentioned that the case could potentially be escalated to the Crown Court, where an unlimited fine could be levied. Mrs Iqbal pleaded guilty and was fined £500 for selling an e-cigarette tank that exceeded the legal volume of 2ml. In addition, she was ordered to pay a surcharge of £200, costs of £985.75 to West Yorkshire Trading Standards, and legal costs of £300 to Kirklees Council, amounting to a total of £1985.75.
Elite E-cigs Ltd, the company operated by Mr Singh, was also fined £500 for the sale of a non-compliant e-cigarette. The court further ordered the company to cover prosecution costs amounting to £2075 and pay a £200 victim surcharge.
Both businesses, Cloud Empire and Elite E-cigs Ltd, were already on the radar of the West Yorkshire Trading Standard Service (WYTSS), as the service had received several complaints regarding the sale of age-restricted products to minors and the sale of non-compliant e-cigarettes from these premises.
The sales in question occurred in September 2022 when a volunteer, accompanied by a Trading Standards Officer, visited the individual shops and requested to purchase an e-cigarette. In both instances, the volunteer was sold an oversized e-cigarette without being questioned about their age or asked to provide any form of identification by the respective sellers.
David Strover, Trading Standards Manager – Business Services Team said, “The flagrant sale of vapes to children just should not be happening within our communities. We wrote to these businesses to make them aware of complaints we had received and informed them a test purchase may follow. The health risks associated with juvenile use of vapes should not be underestimated. Vapes are an adult product suitable for ex-smokers – their sale to, and use by, children is not acceptable. Shops need to ensure they have systems in place to avoid selling vapes to minors and train their staff accordingly. I would like to thank all the partners and members of the public for reporting illegal sales and encourage everyone to continue doing so to reduce the harm caused by tobacco and vapes in our communities.”
Councillor Habiban Zaman, a member of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said “It is clearly irresponsible not to check the age of teenage customers wanting to purchase age-restricted goods. Test purchases are undertaken regularly by Trading Standards staff to ensure shops adhere to the law on vapes, tobacco and alcohol sales. The simple task of asking for identification and verifying the age of younger customers will help to reduce underage vaping and tobacco use.”
Consumers who wish to report illegal trading practices, including the sale of age-restricted goods to children, are encouraged to contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline at 0808 223 1133. Reports can be made anonymously.