Vaping Raids: Where are illegal vapes most being sold in the UK?

Vaping Raids: Where are illegal vapes most being sold in the UK?

Tens of thousands of illegal vapes are being seized from black market vape sellers in police raids across the UK every month.

Non-regulated vapes pose a danger as they may contain different amounts of nicotine to the amounts stated on the packaging, as well as having a higher chance of containing harmful chemicals.

An estimated one-third of vapes currently sold in the UK are believed to be non-compliant with regulations. This figure could see a substantial rise with the upcoming disposable vape ban in 2025.

Vape Superstore wanted to find out how prevalent this issue is and which UK regions have the biggest problem with black market vape distribution.

What we did

Using FOI (Freedom of Information) requests, we ranked the UK councils that have the most businesses selling illegal vapes and the number of illegal vapes/cigarettes seized between 1st January 2023 and 29th February 2024.

Key findings

  • Kent County Council seized more illegal vapes than any UK council, counting 431,005 in total. Many of these arrive through the Eurotunnel terminal and the Port of Dover.

  • Lancashire County Council has the most businesses stocking illegal vapes, with 132 dodgy shops in total.

  • Carmarthenshire County Council seized the most illegal cigarettes in the UK, with a total of 160,000 packets.

The UK councils with the biggest illegal vape and cigarette issues

Council Illegal Vapes Seized Businesses Stocking Illegal Vapes Illegal Cigarettes Seized (Packets)
Kent County Council 431,005 85 144,727
Isle of Anglesey County Council 352,704 5 0
Swansea Council 154,737 19 54,797
Lancashire County Council 54,985 132 31,779
Hertfordshire County Council 21,160 83 96,823
Staffordshire County Council 17,229 33 8,769
Warwickshire County Council 16,062 58 46,255
Hampshire County Council 15,999 16 4,059
Lincolnshire County Council 15,387 36 14,917
Leicestershire County Council 14,859 31 4,709
Surrey County Council 12,381 42 5,039
Nottinghamshire County Council 11,065 41 6,202
Cambridgeshire County Council 10,815 11 3,352
Derbyshire County Council 10,396 55 2,857
Worcestershire County Council 9,101 47 7,251
Devon County Council 8,600 34 31,233
Carmarthenshire County Council 7,500 3 160,000
Cardiff Council 6,952 79 3,806
Gwynedd Council 6,947 7 225
Suffolk County Council 5,930 24 12,806
City of Edinburgh Council 5,871 26 191
Norfolk County Council 4,977 23 2,596
Gloucestershire County Council 4,752 20 56,845
Oxfordshire County Council 4,288 19 1,100
Glasgow City Council 3,536 46 8,166
North Ayrshire Council 2,958 48 812
Fife Council 2,464 23 397
Midlothian Council 2,363 11 0
Essex County Council 2,333 16 4,396
East Sussex County Council 2,163 24 5,628
Renfrewshire Council 2,105 17 66
Denbighshire County Council 2,029 32 940
West Sussex County Council 2,024 17 6,660
Flintshire County Council 1,684 20 22,032
North Lanarkshire Council 1,678 3 3,861
Powys County Council 991 3 0
West Dunbartonshire Council 988 1 677
Belfast City Council 671 4 471
Monmouthshire County Council 599 6 0
Vale of Glamorgan Council 545 8 0
West Lothian Council 500 0 5,000
Highland Council 468 3 200
South Ayrshire Council 461 5 6
Dundee City Council 449 5 190
Perth and Kinross Council 237 3 406
East Ayrshire Council 228 3 1,042
East Dunbartonshire Council 166 1 90
Pembrokeshire County Council 155 4 0
Aberdeenshire Council 121 4 547
Stirling Council 89 11 0
Aberdeen City Council 63 17 2
Dumfries and Galloway Council 61 2 0
Clackmannanshire Council 7 8 0
Angus Council 0 0 2,100
Falkirk Council 0 0 644
Scottish Borders Council 0 0 39
Moray Council 0 5 0
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council 0 4 0
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council 0 1 0
Ards and North Down Borough Council 0 0 0
Argyll and Bute Council 0 0 0
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council 0 0 0
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council 0 0 0
Ceredigion County Council 0 0 0
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 0 0 0
Derry City and Strabane District Council 0 0 0
East Renfrewshire Council 0 0 0
Inverclyde Council 0 0 0
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council 0 0 0
Mid Ulster District Council 0 0 0
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council 0 0 0
Orkney Islands Council 0 0 0
Shetland Islands Council 0 0 0

Number of illegal vapes seized by UK councils, mapped

The full ranking can be seen in the table above – as well as the interactive map right:

Where do most shops stock illegal vapes in the UK?

The top ten councils with businesses reported to be selling illegal vapes are Lancashire (132 shops), Kent (85), Hertfordshire (83), Cardiff (79), Warwickshire (58), Derbyshire (55), North Ayrshire (48), Worcestershire (47), Glasgow (46) and Surrey (42).

See the data visualised on the map below:

How many packets of illegal cigarettes are seized across the UK?

It’s not just vapes that are being confiscated in their thousands across the country. Illegal cigarettes are also a serious issue, with 160,000 packets being seized in Carmarthenshire (south-west Wales) alone. This is the highest number in the UK.
The locations that make up the rest of the top ten include Kent (144,727), Hertfordshire (96,823), Gloucestershire (56,845), Swansea (54,797), Warwickshire (46,255), Lancashire (31,779), Devon (31,233), Flintshire (22,032) and Lincolnshire (14,917).

Click on the map below to see the full scale of numbers:

Survey reveals a knowledge gap among consumers

A 2023 Vape Superstore survey with 1,381 disposable vape users investigated their knowledge of black-market vaping products. The findings revealed that:

  • 50.3% were unfamiliar with the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) regulations.

  • 83% were unaware of the potential health risks associated with illicit disposable vapes.

  • 36.4% said black-market vapes were better value for money.

  • 34.1% were not aware there was a difference between illicit devices and regulated disposables.

What makes certain vape products illegal?

Vapes should only be legally sold to those over 18, but the cheaper price of illegal products is particularly attractive to children.

UK laws also cover the ingredients, strength of nicotine and capacity of tanks. Some of the recovered illegal vape products had a liquid capacity of 14ml, which is seven times the legal limit.

Studies of illegal vapes discovered high levels of dangerous chemicals such as lead, nickel and chromium.

How to make sure you are buying legal vapes

Here are tips to ensure that you never make the mistake of buying a counterfeit or illegal vape product:

  • Check for authenticity

  • Look for well-known brands

  • Be wary of unusually low prices

  • Ask the retailer to provide proof of TPD compliance

  • Stay informed with the latest regulations and safety guidelines


Read more about TPD regulations for vaping and the dangers of black market vaping products in Vape Superstore’s comprehensive report here.


We started by pulling a list of all councils in the United Kingdom. We then sent each individual council a FOI (Freedom of Information) request to find out:

  • How many illegal disposable vapes/e-cigarette/e-liquids were seized

  • How many cases have been identified, where a business is stocking, or in possession of, illegal vaping products

  • How many illegal packets of cigarettes were seized


We then ranked the councils to show which have the highest count of the above factors. Data was requested for the period of 1st January 2023 - 29th February 2024.

Data is correct as of June 2024. contains general information about vaping and vapour products. The information provided is not medical advice, and should not be relied upon unless explicitly cited. We do not make any warranties surrounding the health benefits, reliability and accuracy of written copy across all pages on our website, including blog content and content posted on social media.

Medical Information Disclaimer

Author Image: David Phillips
About the Author: David Phillips
David Phillips is the lead content writer at Vape Superstore, with a decade of involvement in the vaping industry. Armed with a journalism diploma, he has spent the past ten years exploring the world of vaping. David has a hands-on research approach and is committed to delivering fact-based content that is useful to readers. As a former smoker, he has personally experienced the advantages that switching to vaping has to offer, not only for well-being but also for cost savings. David is enthusiastic about raising awareness about vaping’s benefits and helping people make the switch away from tobacco.

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