Sandwell’s Day of Action results in seizure of £64,000+ worth of illegal vaping and tobacco products
Published 21st July 2022
A Trading Standards ‘Day of Action’ has resulted in the seizure of more than £64,000 worth of illegal and dangerous vaping and illicit tobacco products from shops in Great Bridge and Smethwick.
On 7 July, Sandwell Council Trading Standards and Licensing Officers, with colleagues from West Midlands Police, visited eight shops in Great Bridge and Smethwick and removed these products from the market.
Officers were supported by tobacco detection dogs provided by Wagtail UK. Tobacco detection dogs can find cigarettes and tobacco in the most unlikely places.
In total, officers seized 400 illegal vaping products worth around £3,200.
In one shop, the tobacco detection dogs sniffed out 6,692 packs of cigarettes and 50 pouches of hand-rolling tobacco with a retail value worth more than £61,000. Most of the illicit tobacco was hidden in a basement.
Following the Day of Action, officers visited five more shops in Smethwick on 12 July, seizing an additional 402 of illegal vaping products, worth more than £3,200.
Vaping devices are highly regulated by the government to control the amount of nicotine available and have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The legal capacity of a disposable e-cigarette tank is 2ml or approximately 650 puffs. Many of those seized on the ‘Day of Action’ were more than double this, ranging from 4.5ml up to 9ml.
As a general guide, if a disposable device offers more than approximately 650 puffs it will be illegal to offer for sale. Many of the offending items found offered up to as many as 3,500 puffs.
Products should also have the name and address of a UK contact if the producer is based outside of the UK. Many of the seized products were missing this information, along with essential instructions for use, and health and safety warnings.
In addition to having their stock confiscated, offenders could face unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison.
Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “Sandwell Council and our partners are committed to ensuring our residents and their families feel safe and enjoy good health, and the ‘Day of Action’ is a real demonstration of that commitment.
“Illegal tobacco and vaping products can be even more hazardous than commercially-approved items. While you think you might be getting a bargain, you can never be sure what you are smoking and the effect it might have on you.”
Sergeant Ben Clay from Tipton Neighbourhood Police Team said: "The effects these illegal products can have on individual’s health and the knock-on effect to emergency services having to respond is frequent and avoidable. We will continue to work closely with our partner agencies and we will actively target those responsible for such illegal sales with Trading Standards."
Anyone being offered cheap tobacco or any other type of illicit goods should report the details to Trading Standards by calling the Confidential Fakes Hotline on 0300 303 2636 or by visiting the council’s Trading Standards web pages (the text takes you to a web link).
Illegal tobacco has all the harmful properties of legal tobacco, but is also completely unregulated, and often sold much cheaper than legal tobacco.
Some illegal cigarettes are not fire safe as – unlike legal cigarettes – they do not extinguish by themselves if left unattended, making them much more likely to cause a fire.
The sale of cheap or illegal tobacco also makes it easier for children and young people to start smoking and get hooked at a young age. This damages their health and might bring them into contact with criminals.
Illegal tobacco has strong links to crime and criminal gangs. It costs the government an estimated £2 billion in lost revenue each year. It robs the taxpayer of money that could be spent on schools and hospitals. It also causes revenue loss to honest and hardworking retailers who cannot compete with the lower prices of illegal tobacco. It is not a victimless crime.