TEENAGERS were sold vapes in an undercover sting operation led by the county council.

The authority sent teens into 17 Hampshire shops to see if they could buy a vape without proof of age.

The test purchase operations took place last month with teenage volunteers helping officers by going into the businesses to attempt to buy an e-cigarette.

These items should only be sold to someone over 18 but the eye-catching colours and fruity flavours attract vulnerable teenagers, the authority said.

READ MORE: More than 10,500 illegal vapes seized in Hampshire

The test operations caught shop workers in Havant and Aldershot illegally selling vapes to underage persons.

Councillor Russell Oppenheimer, who has responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The rise of vaping by young people is a real worry for parents, so we are ramping up our activities to crack down on the illegal sale of vapes to under 18s.

“Our Trading Standards team has already provided retailers with guidance on what checks to make to ensure they don’t sell to anyone underage.

“I’m pleased that this follow-up operation has found that most retailers are following the law and did not sell to our volunteers.

“In the small number of cases where a sale was made, the circumstances are now under investigation which could lead to prosecution.

“Since September 2023, Trading Standards has also prevented the sale of over £200,000 of illegal vapes and e-cigarettes by removing them from shops across Hampshire.”

Trading Standards continue to regularly visit businesses to ensure that retailers are complying with the law and that the correct measures are in place to prevent underage sales of vapes and other age-restricted products.

A recent survey across secondary schools and colleges in Hampshire shows a large increase in the percentage of young people both experimenting with, and using, vapes.

The survey shows that experimentation with vapes increases from four per cent in Year 7 to 53 per cent in Year 13.

Similarly, usage increases from seven per cent in Year 10, to 18 per cent in year 13.

The council said that anyone needing to report information concerning underage or illicit sales of cigarettes and vapes can contact Hampshire Trading Standards directly.