Police in Devon say they are concerned about a rise in illegal vapes where the liquid is replaced by Class B drugs.

There has been a rise in vapes being spiked with THC, the active compound in cannabis, and spice, which is a dangerous, synthetic cannabis-type product.

Due to the levels of these controlled substances in the vapes being unknown, the risks - particularly to teenagers taking these substances - present health risks which are uncertain and have led to hospitalisations in other parts of the country.

The force’s Child Centred Policing Team have visited eight secondary schools to educate pupils on the health risks of using illegal vapes and the criminal consequences for them if they are found to be in possession of vapes containing THC or spice.

In an effort to raise awareness of how serious the issue is and the wider implications of using these vapes, the police have delivered an assembly to year eight, year nine and year ten pupils since the end of January.

The presentation highlights the law around vapes, where it is illegal to purchase vapes on behalf of anyone under the age of 18, and that vapes should only contain 2ml of liquid and the strength of that should be no more than 20mg/ml.

The pupils are taught the law around possessing vapes containing THC and spice, which includes a maximum prison sentence of five years or an unlimited fine. In addition, the pupils are taught the law around supplying or possessing vapes containing THC or spice with intent to supply, as sharing vapes containing THC or spice with friends could result in a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years or an unlimited fine.

The teenagers were told about police powers, and how anyone suspected to be in possession of a vape containing a controlled drug can be stopped and searched, and any illegal items can be seized. The officers also explained the negative implications on a person’s life once they have a criminal record, including the risk to their studies, restrictions with getting certain jobs later in life, and restrictions on some holiday destinations.  

PC Sarah Goudie said: “It is alarming to hear that some teenagers in our community have access to vapes containing an unknown amount of controlled drugs.

“This poses a significant unknown threat to their health. We hope that increasing education of the dangers of possessing controlled drugs within vapes makes those who use these vapes think twice about doing so. We are continuing our efforts to increase education in schools about the dangers of drug use, and we will be rolling out this presentation to more schools.”

Devon & Cornwall Police, and Police Cadets, have been supporting Trading Standards with a test purchase operation, which found one shop out of the six shops tested sold a vape to an underage person.

Trading Standards are now pursuing this, and intend on holding more test purchase operations in conjunction with Devon & Cornwall Police in the future.