WA shop Up In Smoke accused of selling illegal vapes escapes charges

The first shop owner accused of selling illegal vapes has had charges against them dropped in a sensational blow to the State’s vape crackdown.

WA Health inspectors have seized thousands of vape products but Up In Smoke was the first retailer accused of selling them illegally.

But the case against company directors Kareem Hassan and Hussein Awad has gone up in smoke after the charges against them were discontinued.

Instead, their company has been fined $4000 after pleading guilty to intent to sell or supply a Schedule 4 poison — under legislation meant to carry a maximum penalty of $225,000.

University of Sydney Public Health Expert Simon Chapman said the lenient fine was “petty cash” for these types of businesses that are making a significant amount of money from selling vapes.

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“We’ve had huge fines elsewhere in the country,” Prof. Chapman told 7NEWS.

He said businesses can be fined US$1.6 million in Taiwan.

AMA WA Council of General Practice chair Simon Torvaldsen agreed.

“I wouldn’t call that a serious fine for a serious charge,” he said.

The 15 products that were seized included mint, ice-cream and passionfruit flavours laced with nicotine.

Of the 14 tested — all of them returned positive results for nicotine.

Magistrate Stephen Butcher told the company’s lawyer they were “warned” the day before the raid and “they’re really just thumbing their noses at the law”.

But because the vapes were found in a storeroom and “not on display”, defence lawyer Abbas Soukie argued it was a “technical breach” only and an “isolated aberration”, and not part of an ongoing enterprise.

He argued the shop inside the Coventry Village in Morley sells non-nicotine products and that the seized items were found in a storeroom and not displayed for sale.

“There is no evidence the community was put at risk,” he said.

But the magistrate said there was “potential”.

It comes as health experts are urging State Governments not to give up on trying to enforce the letter of the law or re-write the law if necessary while they wait for a new national ban on importation to strangle supply.

The WA Cancer Council says vape products target teenagers with fruit flavours, and statistics show that the number of 14-17-year-olds vaping has increased 500 per cent in just two years.

Alarmingly, much of the public remains unaware that a single vape can contain as much nicotine as three packs of cigarettes.

“We’re going to have a whole generation if we’re not careful addicted to nicotine, once again,” Dr Torvaldsen said.

He called for more random spot checks of shops.

“Our governments are to be commended for taking action, but we need to make sure that it’s effective action,” he said.

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