Around half of UK pharmacies may be selling e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing vaping liquids illegally, a new report suggests.

A study by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute tested a range of businesses – e-cigarettes are regulated as consumer goods and not restricted to only pharmacies – to see whether they would sell e-cigarettes to under-18s.

A total of 634 compliance tests were conducted between January and March 2016. 

Fourteen pharmacies which were part of national chains were included in the surveyed businesses; eight refused to sell to minors, but six made the illegal sales (43%).

And independent pharmacies were among the worst offenders, with 53% (eight pharmacies) making illegal sales. Only market stalls/car boot sales performed worse.

Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said that while the results in the report were disappointing it was important to consider them in context.

He said, “More than 2.5 million adults use electronic cigarettes and evidence suggests the products are now the most popular quitting aid for smokers in England.

“And these products are being sold in a wide variety of retailers and many of them will have little or no experience of challenging age restricted sales. 

“Regular use among children is relatively rare but children’s awareness of, and experimentation with electronic cigarettes, is increasing. 

“However, trading standards teams play a frontline role in preventing children from obtaining e-cigarettes and nicotine refills, just as they do with traditional tobacco products.”