'Disappointing': four shops caught selling nicotine vapes to underage buyers in Gloucestershire

Trading Standards has reacted with disappointment after shops in Gloucestershire sold nicotine vapes to underage buyers in an undercover operation. In total, 21 stores were visited and four made sales to the underage volunteers.

The test purchases were carried out by trading standards, with the support of police cadets, in the final week of May 2024. The volunteers visited stores across Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds.

In four different shops, they were sold a nicotine vape without any checks on their age or requests for identification. The retailers who did not sell to the underage volunteers had previously received advice about sales to under-18s, with the majority requesting ID from the volunteer.

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Out of all the attempts, there were five instances where vapes were sold to the volunteers, indicating that 76 per cent of the stores passed the test while 24 per cent failed. In comparison, the pass rate was 80 per cent in 2022 and reached 100 per cent in 2023.

Trading standards will be contacting the shops that failed the test within the next week to inform them of the sale and remind them of their legal obligations. Another survey will be conducted later in the year, and repeated failure could lead to prosecution.

Jason Poole, the acting head of trading standards at Gloucestershire County Council, said: "We recognise that the rise in vaping is a real worry for parents and guardians which is why we carry out these test purchase operations. We will provide additional guidance to shops to ensure they do not sell to anyone underage.

"Although only four retailers sold to someone under 18, one is too many. If they are found selling again in the follow-up operation they may find themselves subject to an investigation which could lead to prosecution."

In a tweet, Gloucestershire County Council said: "Trading Standards are disappointed in the number of shops found to have sold vapes to underage buyers." To report underage sales of vaping products, you can email tradingstandards@gloucestershire.gov.uk, visit its website or report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."