Under the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), it is illegal to sell eliquids to minors under the age of 18. As a responsible member of the vaping business community, Vapemate has various safeguards in place to ensure that minors cannot purchase our products online, just as online alcohol retailers do.
As a member of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) we hold ourselves to the highest standards of conduct in our business practices, which often go over and above the practices mandated by regulatory bodies. Through ECITA, we work to develop new standards for the industry, and do business in a way that is compliant with all current regulations and standards.
The news that a number of retailers in the United Kingdom have been caught selling ecigarette products to minors is distressing. Age verification should be an essential component of the purchasing process, just as it is with alcohol. Retailers which ignore this crucial step cast the entire sector in a bad light, but the majority of them were not vape shops - they were markets and car boot sales. Vape shops are run by conscientious owners who know what the implications are if they break the law.
What Vapemate does to restrict minors
It is not enough to ask a user’s age when they enter the website - although we do that as well. Where it matters is in the payment process, which is the same used by online alcohol retailers to verify age. Payment details submitted on our website are checked with credit reference agencies to verify age details. If the age details come back as unsatisfactory, the order doesn’t even make it to an agent - the payment simply does not go through and the user gets a message that the order cannot be completed. While this measure is more costly for us, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that we are not shipping eliquids to minors.
Why we need to play by the rules
While vaping is the quit smoking weapon of choice for many free thinkers who prefer to support small businesses rather than big pharma or, of course, big tobacco, this thinking must not extend to breaking the law. To do so risks further regulation on our industry, which we already have too much of under Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive. It also demonises vaping in the eyes of smokers who are looking for a satisfying way to quit. So what can you do?
Put stringent measures for age verification in place, and make sure all of your employees are trained on them. Expect further enforcement from officials in the near future and ensure that your business is protected from this risk with proper age verification at the till.
If you are an Internet retailer of ecigarette products, put age verification in place in the buying process, just as we do - not just on a gateway page where users enter their date of birth.
Use the power of your purchase to effect change. If you walk into any establishment and notice that people are not being asked for age verification, express concern about it as you are making your purchase. If appropriate action isn’t taken, or you don’t feel that the clerk is concerned enough, contact the owner of the market. If they are unwilling to take measures, let them know that you are taking your business elsewhere.
It’s only if we can pull together that we can prevent negative effects from ruining the potential that vaping has to save lives. Let’s not give anyone a reason to restrict it further.