Vaping stores should not be selling devices to non-smokers, experts have warned after an undercover investigation revealed nine out of 10 stores are flouting the industry code of conduct.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging vape shops to stick by the voluntary code of conduct, which states they should not knowingly sell vape products to anyone who does not or has not smoked before.
The organisation investigated 100 of the 1,700 specialist vape shops in England, Scotland and Wales and said they found 87 per cent are either knowingly or unwittingly prepared to sell e-cigarettes to people who have never smoked or vaped.
Just under half of the stores did not check whether or not the customers had smoked before, and three quarters of those that did still encouraged non-smokers to start vaping, the RSPH claimed.
Footage from their investigation showed one retailer recommending a customer, who told him she did not smoke, choose a vaping liquid with 6mg nicotine content rather than 0mg.
He told her: "The nicotine does affect how much of like a hit you get at the back of your throat, so if you want a bit of that, I'd say go for a six."
Other footage did show a retailer telling a non-smoking customer he would not "want to get you hooked to something" and advising him against buying the product.
Concerns have been raised that non-smokers could become addicted to nicotine if they start vaping.
RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said e-cigarettes must be seen as "evidence-based quitting aids - rather than lifestyle products" and should be aimed only at smokers.
She said: "The majority of vape shops in the UK are not adhering to these important standards. We are keen to support the sector to strengthen their codes of best practice, and for individual retailers to sign up and ultimately adhere to them."
Richard Hyslop, chief executive of the Independent British Vape Trade Association, said: "Vape products should not be marketed to non-smokers or those under the age of 18.
"However, figures produced by organisations such as the Office for National Statistics and Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) demonstrate that over 90 per cent of vapers in the UK are adult current or former smokers, therefore we do not believe this to be a significant problem."