Many 'zero nicotine' labelled vapes contain high levels of nicotine, ITV News finds

ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi and Producer Siham Ali investigate an unexpected trend emerging of vapes labelled as 'zero nicotine' that actually contain the addictive substance

A high number of "zero nicotine" labelled vapes contain a "significant" amount of the addictive substance, an ITV News investigation has found.

"Zero nicotine" vapes are often used by people quitting standard e-cigs and can even be sold to children because they don’t contain the substance - or at least they shouldn’t.

But ITV News has new evidence that a worrying proportion do contain nicotine - and often at high levels.

Our findings come as trading standards seized hundreds of thousands of vapes suspected of being illicit in the last three years across the UK.

We asked the Inter Scientific Laboratory in Liverpool to test a sample of zero nicotine vapes. Of the six tested, two contained nicotine.

Sharing their wider findings, Inter Scientific's Managing Director, Tim Liddicoat, told us: “We looked at 43 zero percent nicotine products that had been seized previously, and of those, just about 33% had a significant amount of nicotine in them."

Whilst testing supposedly zero nicotine vapes for us, the Inter Scientific lab identified levels of the substance approaching legal maximums.

“You don't want to mislabel them generally but even worse for children if they've got access to a product they think has zero percent nicotine and actually, from what we've seen, has significant levels of nicotine," Mr Liddicoat adds.

The regulation of e-cigs is now at a crossroads as the government consults on what rule changes are needed.

Research shared exclusively with ITV News shows 300,000 suspected illegal vapes were seized in the last three years. Credit: ITV News

One of the sector’s leading figures says zero nicotine vapes need to be incorporated into the legislation. Currently, they are not covered by most e-cig regulations.

Robert Sidebottom, Managing Director of Arcus Compliance, told ITV News: “It is absolutely critical that any vaping product - regardless of whether it has nicotine in it that could be accessed by the consumer - is brought into that regulation because it needs to be tested appropriately.

"It needs to ensure it doesn't have banned substances or nicotine in it."

New research shared exclusively with ITV News shows almost 300,000 vapes suspected of being illegal have been seized by trading standards across the UK in the last three years.

The data comes from Freedom of Information requests by Arcus Compliance and shows more than 700 raids, inspections and test purchases have taken place.

'We have learnt the hard way' - Mary Griffin's daughter Sarah, 12, ended up in intensive care with breathing issues after vaping for years believing it was not harmful

Mary Griffin has become a campaigner raising awareness about the dangers of children vaping after her daughter Sarah, aged12, ended up in intensive care with breathing difficulties after vaping for years.

Though there’s no evidence Sarah used zero nicotine products, her mother believes action must now be taken.

“Any of the certain brands that have nicotine in it, that claim they don't, should be penalised heavily," she tells us.

"We have learnt the hard way and me and Sarah both hope that nobody else goes through what we went through".

"To watch your child like that and to think you're losing her for the worst, and over something so silly because you're misinformed," adds Mary through tears.

"They're [vapes] portrayed as if they're safe, but they're not."

E-cigs help tens of thousands of UK smokers quit each year, but the lab tests in our research have highlighted concerns about illegal and dangerously misdescribed “zero nicotine” products blighting the industry.

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