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The ultimate guide to becoming a responsible vape retailer in 2023

When you run a vape store, there are loads of abbreviations and acronyms you need to be aware of.

For example, P&L. SKU. ROI. B2C. COP. EOD. EIEIO. It’s a Scrabble enthusiast’s nightmare.

Here’s another abbreviation that you’ll probably want to make yourself mindful of. CSR.

What’s CSR? We’re glad you asked. (Seriously, we’ve spent hours writing this article!)

CSR is short for ‘corporate social responsibility’. It essentially refers to how businesses operate in line with environmental, societal, and ethical concerns. So basically, what you can do to be a good and responsible business.

With melting ice caps, shady business dealings, and dodgy offshore bank accounts, being principled, moral, and trustworthy is more important than ever before. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it can work wonders for your profits too.

87% of people say they would be more likely to buy a product if a company advocates for an issue they care about. So if you can’t do it to help the world, do it for your bottom line!

The vaping world is prone to a lot of its own moral, ethical, and environmental issues. With this in mind, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to how you can be a responsible vape retailer, all while keeping your customers, staff, and accountants happy.

Important note: The information in this article applies to England, Northern Ireland, and Wales and is accurate as of January 2023. Given that the current government is partial to a nice U-turn, it’s highly likely that the guidance here may be subject to change.

Illegal and counterfeit products

When you were younger, did you ever buy one of those super-cheap perfumes or aftershaves out of a suitcase? Typically from a guy who looked like Del Boy Trotter’s even dodgier older brother. Then, when you sprayed it on at home, you not only smelled like a gorilla’s compacted anal gland, but broke out in hives?

Gucci Bloom? More like Poo-cci Fume, right?!

All joking aside, fake products are terrible. Yes, they’re cheap, but they’re rubbish. And in the worst-case scenario, they can be incredibly dangerous.

According to Trading Standards, illegal vapes are currently the biggest threat on the UK High Street. Along with selling vaping products to children, which we’ll talk about in more detail later.

So, what do we mean by a counterfeit vape? Fake vaping equipment and e-liquids are ones that have been created illegally, often in countries where regulations are a lot more lax.

These can often contain dangerous chemicals, putting people’s health and safety at risk. Vaping hardware can also have missing electrical parts, making it more prone to catching fire or exploding.

Illegal products and fake products don’t comply with UK Government regulations, meaning they shouldn’t be sold. For example, disposable vapes in the UK are meant to contain 2ml of liquid. Any more than that, and alarm bells should be ringing.

Here are a few ways that you can recognise a legitimate product. So if Shifty Steve comes up to you with a carrier bag full of stuff that might have fallen off the back of a lorry, you know exactly what to look out for.

  • The maximum tank size for disposables is 2ml, which is about 600-650 puffs. If a disposable vape promises more puffs than that, consider it a red flag. We’ve heard of some shops selling vapes containing 12,000 puffs of e-liquid, which is all sorts of wrong
  • The maximum size of refill containers is 10ml. If you see anything bigger, act like the kids at Grange Hill and just say no
  • The maximum nicotine content for vapes is 20mg/ml – which is still really strong. If you’re offered a more potent e-liquid, run away really fast
  • Health warnings on vape hardware, disposable vapes, and e-liquids must cover 30% of the front and back of the pack. The warning must exactly read: ‘THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS NICOTINE WHICH IS A HIGHLY ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCE’. We all don’t like the labels, but they have to be there, thems the rules
  • All e-liquids must have a list of ingredients, nicotine content, delivery per dose, and batch number. If they don’t, then put the packaging down and move on
  • All products must feature some kind of recommendation to keep the product out of the reach of children. Teen vaping is bad, mmkay?
  • Vapes that are charged from the mains electricity supply should bear the CE or UKCA mark, which show that they comply with EU or UK directives respectively. Safety first, people
  • All vapes and refill containers must have tamperproof and child-resistant packaging. Otherwise, it’s time to get the heck out of Dodge
  • And finally, all packaging must contain the manufacturer or importer’s name and contact details. We know, it’s a lot to ask for!

The easiest way to ensure the stuff you sell is legitimate is to buy it from a trusted supplier and responsible source.

An excellent place to start is to check out the MHRA website, which lists all the vapes that can be sold in the UK. If it’s not on the list, it can’t be sold in the country.

At Ohm Brew, we brew all of our e-liquids ourselves, right in the heart of beautiful Belfast City. Every batch we make is GC-MS tested to make sure it is not only of the highest quality, but is compliant with strict UK guidelines.

So when you order from us, you know you’re not just getting the good stuff, you’re getting the safe stuff.

Underage sales

Kids are smoking less these days – yay! Only issue? They’re vaping instead. Boo.

The choice of e-liquid flavours combined with brightly coloured and affordable disposable vapes (more on that in a bit) and how easy they are to buy from shops? It’s a dangerous blend when it comes to young people.

Trading Standards has advised that one in three businesses break the law when it comes to selling vapes to kids, anyone under the age of eighteen.

Selling vapes and vaping equipment to children isn’t just skeevy AF. It’s illegal.

If you’re caught selling to minors, you could be liable for a fine of up to £2,500. Even worse, selling a vape is classified as a ‘strict liability offence’. This means that the enforcing authority doesn’t have to prove that you committed an offence; the fact that you sold a vape is enough to justify the fine.

So, what can you do to ensure all sales made at your vape store are nice and legal?

  • Enforce a ‘Challenge 25 policy’. This means that anyone who looks under the age of 25 will be asked for ID. This gives you a bit of leeway, and hopefully the customer will take it as a compliment on their youthful looks! If you adopt Challenge 25, put signage in your store, so people have a heads-up to bring their ID with them
  • If you use an electronic point of sale (EPOS), you can set up prompts to remind staff to ask for ID when products are scanned in
  • Provide staff training. If an illegal sale is made, the owner of the business as well as the member of staff who sold the product are both liable to pay the fine. Carry out training as part of the induction process, and conduct regular refresher training
  • Keep a log of any sales that were refused. Keep a note of the date and time, which staff member refused the sale, and why the sale was refused. You can use this to identify any patterns and to make sure staff are following the rules
  • Have your staff’s backs. If your staff refuse to serve someone underage and they get stroppy and aggressive as a result, make sure you’re in your team’s corner

A little bit about proxy purchasing

What happens when an adult over the age of eighteen buys a vaping product on behalf of someone younger? This is known as ‘proxy purchasing’.

Proxy purchasing is illegal, but it’s the buyer and not the seller that commits the offence under these circumstances. After all, how are you meant to know who the vape is for?

However, if it’s obvious that proxy purchasing is taking place (for example, an adult is buying for kids loitering outside the store), then you must refuse the sale.

Disposable vape sales

Disposable vapes, like our Brew Bar disposables, are great if you’re travelling or if you want to see if vaping is right for you. Everything is self-contained in one slimline unit; no need to charge or refill it. Nice and simple.

However, disposable vapes can be problematic if the wrong people use them. If you’ve ever gone for an early morning jog or walked the dog and seen piles of plastic strewn on the pavement, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

It’s not disposable vapes that are the problem; it’s our collective attitudes to them. If vapers see vape bars as an easy fix that they can use and then dump on the ground, people will naturally get frustrated. And when people get frustrated, bans start coming into play.

The Irish Government is currently considering a ban, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the UK shortly follows suit.

So what does this mean when you’re a vape store owner? By taking the lead and a responsible approach to disposable vapes, other people will follow suit. Here’s how you can play your part:

  • Young people under the age of eighteen are the most regular users of disposable vapes, with 16% of teenagers admitting to trying one. By refusing to sell to minors, you’re helping keep vape bars in the right hands
  • It’s crucial to recycle disposable vapes as they not only take a thousand years to decompose, but contain valuable metals that can be reused. Check with your local council to see how your customers can recycle their vapes correctly and spread the good word
  • Speak to customers to see if a disposable vape is right for them. It might be that they can save money by buying e-liquids and vape hardware instead. They win, you win, the environment wins

Find out more about selling vape bars responsibly.

Carbon footprint reduction

The UK Government has pledged to become ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. This means that the amount of carbon dioxide produced will equal the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

Seems like a long time away, right? Unfortunately we’re not quite on track yet.

If you want to be seen as a responsible business, it’s essential to look at your carbon footprint and see what you can do to lower it. Trust us; Mother Nature will thank you.

Here are a few ways you can get that carbon footprint as low as possible:

  • Use local and nationally based suppliers where possible. For example, Ohm Brew is based in the UK, with all our e-liquids produced in our lovely lab
  • Recycle as much as you can. By sorting your rubbish into cardboard, paper, glass, and tins, you can make a significant difference
  • Reduce the amount of paper you use. For example, not printing emails and offering customers e-receipts. Over 11 billion receipts are printed in the UK each year, leading to 28,000 tonnes of CO2!
  • Look at implementing carbon offsetting in your business. This is when you compensate for the carbon you emit as a business by funding a carbon saving elsewhere. For example, for every four Brew Bars we sell, we plant a tree. In partnership with the Eden Project, we’ve helped plant 24,000 trees to date

It’s always worth checking in with your local council or business improvement district to see if they have any initiatives in place you can get involved in.

In summary: It's really easy not to be sleazy!

We know there was a lot to go through, but we hope you enjoyed this crash course in being a socially responsible vape retailer.

If you take one thing away from this gargantuan essay of a blog post, stop and think before you take action. If that deal feels too good to be true, or you believe that a customer is on the wrong side of eighteen, it’s okay to say no.

After all, no can be a complete sentence. Say it with us – no. Feels good, right?

We regularly post about running a fantastic vape store, so why not check out the rest of our articles? And remember, if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to get in touch. We’re all here to help each other out, after all.

 

p.s And just in case you were curious about the abbreviations we used at the start of this article. Profit & loss. Stock keeping unit. Return on investment. Business to business. Close of play. End of day. Erm… we’ll have to get back to you on that one!

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