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UK vape merchants fear new tax may surge black market

UK vape merchants fear new tax may surge black market

Recently, the British government plans to launch a new vape tax system. Vape merchants in Nottingham, England, are worrying that the new tax system may lead to a “100-fold” increase in black market trade.

In January 2024, the British government confirmed the promulgation of a ban on disposable vapes. Besides, the government also announced a tax on vape products in last month’s budget.

Vape sellers worrying about the underground vape trade.

Most businesses in the region agree with the ban. But, they believe the new tax will drive trade underground. According to statistics, Nottingham City Council’s trading standards team seized over 7,500 illegal vapes in 2023. However, this number was only 1,786 in 2022.

According to a vape shop employee there, 7 out of 10 customers ask them about illegal products. Sifal Yakoubi, the store owner, says that if people want to obtain vapes, many will turn to the black market.

“(The tax) will definitely have an effect, if it gets to a certain price it’s a problem. There’s already lots of people selling illegal disposables under the counter.” Sifal said.

“They sell to anyone, including underage. This can be fixed by giving out licenses to sell them.” The sales assistant Callum Edwards says the government was “shooting itself in the foot”.

“I think it will drive the black market 100 fold.”

British law stipulates that vape oil and disposable vapes must not contain more than 20mg/ml (2%) nicotine. The capacity of vape juice or cartridges is limited to 2 ml, which is equivalent to 600 puffs.

Nottingham trading standards team is not too worried about the influence of the vape tax.

Emma Boulton, head of the Nottingham trading standards team, reveals that the main problem they are currently dealing with is oversized vape containers sold in shops.

“We’re finding a lot of stuff from America and other parts of the world imported into the UK and being sold. People are getting more knowledgeable about what they can sell now.”

As of February 15, 2024, the team had carried out 2,435 seizures. These seizures were made at “a variety of retail facilities.” But, most complaints are lodged through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. Sometimes the complaints even involve businesses selling smoking equipment to children.

Bolton explains that People call and complain about someone selling vapes to minors. Small offenses will result in a warning letter. While serious offenders will receive a warning interview. The ‘worst case scenario’ is that the owner is taken to court, but The trade team has not taken this step so far.

The British government has stated that the ban on disposable vapes is aimed at reducing the number of young people vaping. In response to previous concerns raised by vape shop owners that they might “drive the trade underground,” Bolton responded that he was “not too worried.”

“I don’t have massive concerns about it. I think people will just transfer to the refillable vapes rather than the disposable. It’s not like you’re making them completely unavailable.”

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