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A crowdfunding campaign has launched to raise funds for a legal challenge against the government over its announced restrictions on the sale of vapes.

Several vape brands, retailers and wholesalers have already backed the raise – which is nearing its £15,000 initial target. The money will be used to engage a King’s Counsel barrister to provide expert legal advice and advise on the best course of action to challenge the government appropriately.

The campaign has been launched by the newly formed Vape Protection Alliance (VPA). The group – led by Arcus Compliance – says it is “not looking to prevent a ban of disposable vape products” but wants to work with government “on sensible measures and timescales to phase them out” with a “reasonable sell-out period”.

It also wants to “maintain flavours, described in a reasonable and adult manner” and “maintain open display and sales in specialist retail outlets”.

Last month, the government announced it would ban disposable vapes, in a bid to tackle underage vaping. Prime minister Rishi Sunak said the government needed to “act before it becomes endemic”. As well as the ban on disposables – the timeframes for which have not yet been stated – the government plans to introduce new powers to restrict flavours “which are specifically marketed at children” and ensure manufacturers produce “plainer, less visually appealing” packaging. Those powers will also allow government to change how vapes are displayed in shops, moving them out of sight of children and “away from products that appeal to them like sweets”.

The legal challenge from the VPA will challenge the government “on their lack of evidence, failure to directly consult with the industry, failure to enforce on the existing regulations, the threat and impact on legitimate vape businesses in terms of their collective right to run their businesses without interference and the clear and present danger to the health of former smokers by further restricting access to these life changing products particularly with regards to access to a broad range of flavours” said Robert Sidebottom, managing director of Arcus Compliance.

The group said the second phase of the campaign would require a further £60,000 to take a case to the courts.

“We’re very keen to avoid court action,” Sidebottom told The Grocer, “but hopefully if we get the case the government will instruct its departments to sit down with us and finally consult the industry.

“Prohibition doesn’t work, it’s significant overreach. All the required regulation is already in place, it’s just not properly enforced,” he added.

Among those backing the campaign are VPZ, Doozy, Eco Vape, The Haypp Group, Flawless, TCF Group, Alchem, IVG, Evolution Vaping, Vape Chaos, Wildfire, Insta Fill, and Arcus Compliance.

There was widespread shock and disappointment across the vaping sector following the government’s announcement last month, with a source at one major Chinese disposable brand telling The Grocer: “This really could be the death of us.”

The UK Vaping Industry Association said it was “dismayed” at the decision. “While action to prevent youth access to vaping is critical, this move smacks more of a desperate attempt by the government to sacrifice vapers for votes ahead of the upcoming general election,” said UKVIA director general John Dunne.