One in Four Vapes are Sold Without ID Checks 

Since January 2021, Serve Legal have conducted over 22,000 e-cigarette purchase tests. These have been both instore and online purchase tests. Serve Legal Data has shown that one in four auditors are being sold e-cigarettes without being asked for age verification or identification. When looking at 2022 data, it is clear that supermarket retailer’s compliance with vaping, is falling lower than tobacco and cigarette compliance. Retailers are expected to operate within the realms of the Think21 and Think25 policy. This requires any customer who looks under either 21 or 25 (Challenge 25 test) , to be asked for their ID when buying an age restricted item, such as a vape. Strict legal action can follow for retailers who fall short of these expectations. A vaping store in Walsall was charged with a fine of £2,251 in October 2022 for the sale of a vape to a 15 year old after Walsall Council Trading Standards felt the need to intervene.  

Age Verification Testing  | Vaping in Minors 

Latest figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reveal that vaping rates amongst 11-17 year olds have risen from 4% to 7% in the last 2 years. These figures clearly highlight that compliance testing and training in the vaping industry needs to be so forward thinking when it comes to underage sales. At Serve Legal, we are so proud of the improvements that many of our retailer clients have made since putting age verification practices as a high priority, with some supermarkets seeing pass rates peak at 87%. Our pass rates, reflect the percentage of compliant audits (when ID was requested) seeing a pass result.  

Through our Serve Legal audit data, we can see that 25% of our auditors are able to purchase e-cigarettes without age verification or ID testing being enforced. This raises concerns around the implementation of the Think21 and Think25 policies. Trading Standards warned retailers in August 2022 of the severity of selling e-cigarettes to minors. If a retailer is found to be selling to under-age customers on multiple occasions, further action may be taken. This could include the owners or retailers being taken to court, and being issued with a fine of up to £2,500.  

Serve Legal Age Verification Audits - The Need for Industry-wide Compliance 

It is necessary for each and every supplier of e-cigarettes to consider their compliance with age verification practices; to remove the potential risks from underage sales, to both the public and retailers involved. It is vital that supermarkets and vaping companies are willing to pave the way in promoting safe age verification practice through routine staff checks and training.  

Serve Legal are here to support retailers. We offer bespoke independent test purchasing audits, using our nationwide community of over 3,000 young people to support our clients with monitoring and improving their age verification compliance. You can read more about our age verification testing here.