AN UNDERCOVER sting operation by a Gwent council failed to catch out any shops selling vapes to people under the age of 18.
Seven shops were visited in the operation but none were found to be selling the nicotine inhaling devices that are also sometimes known as e-cigarettes, and which are often sold in bright, colorful packaging and with sweet flavours.
David Jones, head of public protection for Monmouthshire council, told members of its performance and overview committee: “We did do a sting-type operation recently to pick up the problem of illegal vapes and underage sales but unfortunately the intelligence back is they tend to sell to their regular punters so we had no illegal sales, but we did follow that up with letters to premises that sell vapes to remind them of their responsibilities.”
The operation, conducted in the winter, was the third carried out in the year from March 2022 by the council’s trading standards department which targeted small, independent traders.
In spring 2022 they visited five shops, with one failure recorded and as a result business advice was given and the shop passed on a revisit.
In the summer/early autumn four failures were recorded after 14 shops were visited and the shops were issued formal warning letters.
Though no shops failed during the most recent inspection a council report said “Concerns remain with one premises and safeguarding concerns have been passed to relevant sections of Monmouthshire County Council and Gwent Police.”
Chepstow Mount Pleasant councillor Paul Pavia had asked: “The illegal sales of vapes, and the illegal importation of vapes is probably linked to organised crime, which would be for the police and others, but how are we working with traders to make sure they are aware of their licensing responsibilities in terms of sales of vapes to underage children?”
He said he was concerned at how 18 vapes confiscated from schoolchildren, at one school in Kidderminster in Worcestershire, had been found to contain high levels of lead, nickel and chromium which can all be hazardous to health. A BBC investigation found most of the confiscated vapes were illegall and hadn’t been subject to safety testing.
The Conservative asked: “Are we working with schools to highlight the dangers of illegal products?”
He said the rising cost-of-living would likely mean the problems of illegal tobacco and vapes could increase.
Mr Jones said there is “national drive” on vapes and illegal sales but he could raise the issue of working with schools with the responsible trading standards officer.
A Freedom of Information Act request to Monmouthshire County Council revealed that during 2022 a total of 26 illegal vapes were confiscated by teachers at three schools in the county. It is understood all the vapes were confiscated at secondary schools.
The council, in line with Welsh Government legislation, requires all schools to be smoke free and also advises against e-cigarette or vaping. A council spokeswoman said: “To help de-normalise smoking and promote a healthy living environment, schools are advised to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and vaping pens on school premises.”
The council also says its health promotion guidance to schools aims “to empower children to make responsible, well informed decisions about substances and, whenever possible, to resist the temptation to use them” and that includes cigarettes and the use of e-cigarettes and vape pens as well as drinking alcohol.
Schools are also advised to contact the Help Me Quit Service for guidance and support if pupils request help due to smoking or vaping.