The UK vape market has grown significantly in recent years. With around 2,900 specialist stores generating more than £1.2bn1 annually, it is Europe’s largest market2 and the second largest in the world, behind the US.3However, while the market is booming, it does face challenges, particularly the sale of vape and e-cigarette products to underage customers and the associated growth of vaping amongst the under-18s. In fact, the problem has worsened in recent years. In 2022, 15.8% of 11-17 years olds (and almost a third of 16 and 17 year olds) said they have tried vaping, compared with 11.2% in 2021.4
What’s more, almost half (46.5%) of 11-17 year olds buy their vape products from shops, despite legislation banning their sale to under-18s4. In line with those trends, Trading Standards has seen complaints about illegal vape sales rise from dozens each month in 2021 to hundreds each month this year – and has seized thousands of counterfeit and unregulated products.5
What are the regulations governing the sale of vape products in the UK?
The rules around the sale of vapes in the UK are clear. They explicitly ban the sale of e-cigarettes or vapes to children, while every vaping product containing nicotine must be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).5
Set out in the Tobacco and Related Product Regulations of 2016, the rules also state that:
- Certain ingredients, such a caffeine and taurine, are banned
- Nicotine ingredient warnings must appear on packaging
- Packaging should be child-proof
- All e-cigarette and e-liquids containing nicotine must be certified by the MHRA before they can be sold in the UK.5
Serious consequences for illegal and unregulated vape sales
For shops caught out carrying out illegal vape sales – either unregulated products or under-age sales – there can be serious consequences.
In England and Wales, if a retailer is caught selling vape products to under-18s, both the retailer and the staff member are risking summary convictions and a fine of up to £2,500 while, in Scotland, further rules apply - including fines of up to £20,000 or even imprisonment for retailers selling vapes without registering to do so.6 Meanwhile, any retailer found to be selling unregulated or non-compliant products risks prosecution, stock seizure and fines of up to £5,000 per offence.7
Those consequences are likely to get more serious over time. Already the UK Vaping Industry Association is calling for tougher action on illegal sales, including the introduction of a licensing or approved retailer and distributor scheme and increased penalties of at least £10,000 per offence.8
How to sell vape products legally in the UK
Clearly, then, for any shop selling vape products, awareness of, and compliance with the law is crucially important – as ever in UK law, ignorance of the rules is not a legal defence.
So, to avoid fines and other penalties, it pays to know the rules, which include6:
- To supply a new e-cigarette product in Great Britain you must notify the MHRA using its submission portal, or the EU-CEG in Northern Ireland. If you’re unsure, you can check which brands are already certified on the .
- Maximum tank size (cartridge/pod) is 2ml, and 10ml for refills, with a nicotine content not exceeding 20 mg/ml.
- Packaging must include a list of ingredients, an indication of nicotine content per dose, batch number and manufacturer or importer name and contact details, as well as prominent health warnings in black text on a white background.
- Packing cannot feature offers and discounts or product safety/ health claims, but must include recommendations on how to keep the product out of the reach of children.
- All mains-chargeable vapes must bear the CE or UKCA mark.
- All e-cigarettes and refill containers must be tamper-evident and have child-resistant packaging.
The role of insurance in protecting vape stores
While vape shops face many of the same risks as any other retailer – from property to liability risks - there are also some specific risks associated with making or selling e-cigarettes and vape products that means you need insurance specifically tailored to your business. Risks include:
- Product safety: If a product you have supplied or manufactured is unsafe and causes personal injury or death to any person, or damage to private property, you could be sued for compensation.
- Crime: Vape shops are becoming increasingly attractive to thieves, who present a risk to stock, on-site equipment and cash (whether physically or through cyber-crime).
- Investigations by regulators: As we have seen, a growing issue with non-compliant products and under-age sales is increasing the prevalence of regulatory investigations.
The good news is you can now buy affordable vape shop insurance designed to cover all your key business risks – from liability, stock and property to goods in transit and cyber-crime - in one easy package.
Help is at hand
If you want to know more about the risks facing vape shops and how to defend against them, contact one of our local experts for confidential guidance, or read more about vape shop insurance.
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