In a concerted effort to curb the unlawful sale of vapes, particularly to children, a collaborative operation involving the police, trading standards, and the council has successfully seized almost 16,000 illicit vaping products from two retailers in Leeds. The joint initiative, spearheaded by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, West Yorkshire Police, and Leeds City Council, led to a substantial haul with an estimated retail value of £160,000.

The enforcement operation was prompted by public reports of the sale of illicit and oversized vapes at the targeted premises. Prior to the operation, Trading Standards had issued advisory visits and warnings. The subsequent raids revealed that approximately 75% of the retailers’ stock was illegal, prompting Trading Standards to initiate inquiries into potential offences identified during the operation.

A team of five Trading Standards officers and five police officers were instrumental in identifying and seizing the contraband from each premises. This notable crackdown highlights the prevalence of the illegal vape market in West Yorkshire. In the past year alone, over 30,000 illicit vapes were confiscated across the region.

David Strover from West Yorkshire Trading Standards said; “Selling illicit vapes, or any vapes illegally, is a very serious offence and the penalties reflect this with unlimited fines and potentially up to 2 years in prison. The illegal vaping market not only undermines other retailers who are operating and trading within the law, but it is also driving more young people to start experimenting with vapes and risk addiction.

“Many of these vapes are oversized and contain illegal quantities of nicotine. The open trading of illicit vapes is a great concern and demonstrates some retailers’ complete disregard for the health and safety of their customers and the local community.

“Identifying illicit vapes can be challenging but any vape over 2 ml – about 600 puffs – is illegal and should be reported. Sales to under 18s should also be reported. This can be done anonymously via the Citizens Advice phone line 0808 223 1133.”

Sergeant Lee MacDonald of Leeds City Neighbourhood Policing Team, said; “We fully support this important work by our trading standards colleagues to target the harm and risk caused by illicit vapes, particularly to children and young people.

“This successful operation has seen a huge haul of potentially harmful products taken out of circulation and it should send a clear deterrent message to other retailers trading in illegal vapes.”

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles, said; “Vaping is an important tool to help people stop smoking, but illicit vapes can contain dangerous levels of nicotine and other chemicals.

“Any vapes, illicit or not, are not for children and young people. Quite simply the message is: if you don’t smoke, don’t start to vape.”

“I am grateful and fully supportive for the hard work and support from West Yorkshire Trading Standards and West Yorkshire Police on this issue.”