London Councils Launch Undercover Investigations to Crackdown on Illegal Vapes

Town halls across London have launched undercover operations in a bid to prosecute any shops caught selling vaping products to minors.

The Barking and Dagenham council revealed it had launched investigations into three shops after mystery shoppers aged 13 and 14 were sent to purchase the products on December 30th. Meanwhile in raids, Sutton council seized 2,000 illegal vapes, unsafe toys and over 60 accessories worth around £27,000.

The Hammersmith and Fulham Council has confiscated 12,500 illegal cigarettes, almost 7kg of rolling tobacco and more than 20kg of shisha from local shops. “Part of our efforts to keep consumers safe and reduce the selling of illicit tobacco products has also included work to remove unlawful vapes from our streets,£ said a spokesperson. 

Dropping smoking rates thanks to vapes
Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found around 13.3% of people aged 18 or over smoked cigarettes in 2021, as opposed to 14.0% in 2020. This drop coincided with the well documented increase in vaping rates.

The ONS data revealed that 7.7% of those aged 16 and over said they used e-cigarettes compared to 6.4% in 2020. While the relative drop in smoking rates (to 13.3%) is significant given that 20.2% smoked. “This is the lowest proportion of current smokers since 2011, when we began recording smoking prevalence from the annual population survey (APS),” said James Tucker, data and analysis for social care and health division at the ONS.

Vaping’s positive role in the UK
The ONS reiterated that vaping has played a “major role” in reducing smoking in the UK. Their data indicated that vaping is highest among current smokers at 25.3% and ex-smokers at 15.0%. Only 1.5% of people who have never been smokers are current vapers.

Similarly a 2021 ASH (Action for Smokefree 2025) Year 10 Survey, has indicated that in parallel with increased vaping rates among 13 and 14-year-olds, smoking rates have dropped to a record low.