New ‘Candy' e-cigs catch fire after U.S. regulators stamp out Juul's flavors
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new plan to ban disposable vapes. Photo: Reuters / STAFF

In recent years, London has seen a new wave of American-style candy and souvenir shops appearing on Oxford Street.

The garish sweet stores are rarely busy but manage to stay open in London's famous shopping district.

In 2022, reports note that Westminster City Council urged the National Crime Agency to launch an investigation into the shops after more than £1 million worth of counterfeit goods were seized by police.

Amongst the unlawful items, were fake Rolex watches, fraudulent Apple products and super-strength vapes that contained illegal amounts of nicotine.

The Westminster officials also noted that the counterfeit goods were hidden on the shop floor, with items being found in suitcases that were "for sale".

The American-style businesses have also been accused of being a hub for money laundering after an investigation found that a large number of the shops had been set up by people with shell companies and business leaders in Jersey and Russia.

Many of the suspicious companies have also fallen behind on their business rate payments, adding up to a staggering £9.2 million, reported the government officials.

Since the shocking revelation, Westminster City Council has pledged to continue its crackdown on the suspected money laundering hubs that have been emerging in England's capital.

Westminster City Council also said that the investigation into the America-style shops has led to some stores closing for good – dropping from 29 to 21.

American Candy Shop
In recent years, Oxford Street has been dominated by chain stores, souvenir and candy shops, while many big name retailers have closed. Tolga Akmen/AFP

Just yesterday, February 1 2024, the authorities seized more than 2,000 unlawful items from an American sweet shop in London.

The American-style candy store was located on Oxford Street and saw more than £55,000 worth of suspected illegal goods taken by police officers in a raid.

According to Trading Standards, their officers recovered a staggering 2,200 counterfeit goods, including a haul of vapes that contained illegal amounts of nicotine, sweets that have been banned in the UK and fake designer mobile phone covers.

Westminster City Council Leader Adam Hug told reporters: "This significant haul from just one shop shows the scale of the problem we face."

"Suspected illegal goods continue to flood into the country and central London. As a council we do what we can making life difficult for unscrupulous traders through enforcement action and pressure on landlords," he added.

Hug also revealed that Westminster City Council have launched a campaign that calls on the government to make changes to company registration documents. The movement sets out to "make it harder for dirty money to circulate in London", he said.

Slamming the store staff and owners for selling the unlawful products to youths, the Council Leader also told reporters: "We are dealing with people who are quite prepared to peddle excessively strong vapes and banned sweets to children."

The seizing of the vapes, which held twice the legal amount of nicotine approved in the UK, comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his new plan to ban disposable vapes, limit vape liquid flavours and restrict the colour of vape packaging that is targeted towards youngsters.

This week, Sunak said: "As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic."

"The long-term impacts of vaping are unknown and the nicotine within them can be highly addictive, so while vaping can be a useful tool to help smokers quit, marketing vapes to children is not acceptable," he added.

Ordering the future ban, the Conservative Party Leader said: "That is why I am taking bold action to ban disposable vapes – which have driven the rise in youth vaping – and bring forward new powers to restrict vape flavours, introduce plain packaging and change how vapes are displayed in shops."