Shop owners in Kingswood and Hanham prosecuted for selling illegal e-cigarettes in landmark ruling

Two convenience store operators in Kingswood and Hanham have been ordered to pay a combined total of almost £11,000 in fines and costs for selling illegal disposable e-cigarettes to customers, in the first prosecution for these types of devices brought by a local authority in Great Britain.

Appearing at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday, Ariyan (SW) Limited and its sole director, Gaurav Kotia, 34, of Downend, pleaded guilty to both selling illegal disposable e-cigarettes and being in possession for supply of a further 355 devices.

Krishna Trading (Bristol) Limited and its sole director Ronakkumar Rajendrakumar Parikh, 31, of Downend, also pleaded guilty to selling disposable e-cigarettes and being in possession for supply of a further 291 devices.

The court heard that Kotia operates a newsagent trading as MJ’s News in Hanham High Street, whilst Parikh operates Kingswood Food & Wine in Regent Street.

Seized e-cigarettes from MJ’s News (top) and Kingswood Food & Wine (below)

South Gloucestershire Council’s Trading Standards team received complaints that both businesses were selling illegal disposable e-cigarettes.

When Trading Standards officers visited the premises in June 2022, they found labelled devices containing up to seven times the 2ml legal limit of nicotine e-liquid. The products were seized.

Kotia and his company have now been fined a total of £2,750, ordered to pay council costs of £2,500 and required to pay £68 in victim surcharges.

Parikh and his company were fined a total of £2,450, ordered to pay council costs of £2,950 and required to pay £68 in victim surcharges. The combined total of fines, costs and surcharges comes to £10,786.

Cllr Rachael Hunt, the council’s cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “Following intelligence that illegal e-cigarettes are being sold in the South Gloucestershire area, the council’s Trading Standards officers have been undertaking checks to ensure only legal e-cigarettes that have undergone the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) submission and notification process are sold to customers.

“During 2022, we’ve seized over 4,000 illegal disposable e-cigarette devices with a retail value of over £32,500. These have now been destroyed in an environmentally friendly way.

“Although vaping is considered far safer than smoking traditional tobacco products, inhaling nicotine through a device is not risk-free. That is why there is legislation in place to regulate products placed on the market.”

Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) chief executive John Herriman said: “Trading Standards teams across the UK are working hard to remove illegal vapes from our high streets. The proactive work undertaken by South Gloucestershire Council is to be commended and the subsequent landmark ruling is a reminder to businesses that selling illegal and non-compliant products will not be tolerated.

“While we recognise that vaping may be a useful quitting aid for smokers, we are worried that there appear to be increasing breaches of the law, with many non-compliant products being sold. There are also growing concerns from Trading Standards colleagues up and down the country that vaping products are being sold or supplied to children and young people, and CTSI will be ramping up our advocacy activities in this area in the future.

“Trading Standards teams are doing vital work by cracking down on the unscrupulous retailers who are selling these products and CTSI continues to support and promote the good work of the profession.”

Anyone who suspects they may have been sold, or is aware of a business selling, non-compliant disposable e-cigarettes is urged to report it to Trading Standards on 0808 223 1133.