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Are vapes the new grooming “gift”?

Data from local Trading Standards teams across England and Wales has found that underage vape sales have increased significantly in the past year.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has said that there has been a significant increase in underage vape sales in the past year. 

While absolute numbers remain low - there were 15 complaints lodged with Citizens Advice in March 2021, compared with 259 in May 2022, and 220 in July 2022. 

Similarly intelligence database logs increased from 12 in March 2021 to 247 in July 2022, hitting 315 in May 2022. 

In England and Wales it is illegal to sell nicotine products to those under 18 - and those who do so risking a fine. 

The CTSI has said the statistics and intelligence from local Trading Standards teams represent a “rapid escalation” in vaping products being sold to children. 

The NPCC told Police Oracle that the Assoication of Chief Trading Standards Officers has alerted them to the trend and they have since shared that with forces. 

They also confirmed that they have seen instances where vaping products have been used by offenders with the intention of grooming children for CSE. 

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Child Protection, Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, said: “CSE is a form of child abuse where a victim is given something in exchange for sexual activity. Offenders target vulnerable young people and use their power over the child to sexually abuse them. 

“Our approach to tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse is always evolving, and there are many examples of innovative police work being done with positive outcomes for victims, and perpetrators being brought to justice. 

“For example, over the past year, a regional network of analysts has been established who capture data nationally, to form a rich picture of trends in child sexual exploitation and abuse. This analysis provides a far more informed responses at national and local level. 

“However, we are not complacent, and we recognise there is still more to be done. We are committed to continuing to enhance this area of our work, and valuable research such as this report from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute help us to do this.”

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