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Fake Vapes and How to Avoid Them

Fake Vapes and How to Avoid Them

Fake vapes are becoming a real problem across the UK, with more fake vapes UK wide than any other counterfeit product right now - but why are fake vapes an issue? In this article I'll be looking into the dangers presented by fake vapes as well as how to tell whether your vape is fake and what you can do in the event that you’re sold an illegal or fake vape.

Disposable vapes have seen a dramatic rise in popularity within the UK in recent years, partially due to their convenience, but also because they’re available at almost every corner store and petrol station - but with a rise in the availability of disposable vapes we also see a rise in fake vapes for sale.

In fact, an article by The Guardian recently exposed that local authorities within the UK have discovered and confiscated more than 2.5 million illegal vapes just since the beginning of 2020 - this is a clear example of the growing problem the UK is facing when it comes to the issue of the increase in fake disposable vapes for sale.

What are Fake Vapes?

Fake vapes are counterfeit vapes which are often imitations or copies of other vape brands, although they’re usually found at smaller stores or market stalls - however, there has also been an increase in the amount of retailers online selling counterfeit vapes whilst posing as legitimate distributors selling authentic products.

The prevalence of fake vapes has risen rapidly in the UK, with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute regularly confiscating and destroying thousands of counterfeit and illegal vapes nationwide. The BBC revealed just last month that more than 4.5 million illegal vapes had been seized at the border within the last 12 months, which is four times as many as were seized in 2022. However, these are just the fake vapes that have been discovered - meaning that there are likely still many more hundreds of thousands, if not millions, out there unaccounted for.

Are fake vapes dangerous?

The dangers of fake vapes are a real cause for concern, as fake and illegal vapes are not MHRA approved, meaning that they likely haven’t been tested to the same standards as authentic vapes and that there’s no knowing what's inside them.
If you’re doubting the threat that fake vapes pose, cast your mind back to 2021 when a mysterious lung ailment was sweeping across big cities such as New York and London - the symptoms were shortness of breath, vomiting and dizziness - it was later revealed that this epidemic was caused by fake THC vapes that were being sold illegally on the Black Market. 

These vapes contained a Vitamin E acetate, which is harmless when used as a thickening agent in lotions and foods, but was found to interfere with the lungs functioning when inhaled. Although these were fake weed vapes it’s clear that any fake vapes, whether they’re fake Crystal vapes or fake Elux vapes, are not safe and should be avoided at all costs; but how can you tell if vapes are fake?

How to spot fake vapes?

Sadly it’s not always clear which vapes are fake just by looking at them - we’ve previously been asked questions such as ‘are Blood Mary vapes fake’ and ‘are Found Mary vapes fake’ due to the fact that both appear to play on the Lost Mary name - however, both brands are legitimate. This isn’t to say that the specific disposable vapes you’re purchasing are legitimate though, only that it’s not always possible to tell based on appearance or name alone. However, there are sometimes minor visual differences that can give a fake or counterfeit vape away.

How to spot fake disposable vapes - warning signs

If your disposable vape is the real deal it should be sold in a box containing a sealed packet with the vape inside. The box should also display the following key information:

  • A warning that the vape contains nicotine (if it isn’t nicotine free)
  • The nicotine strength (with 20mg/2% being the maximum legal nicotine content in the UK)
  • Puff count (usually 600 puffs or less if it isn;t nicotine free)
  • Nicotine per puff (again, unless it’s zero nicotine)
  • A list of the ingredients (Taurine, Caffeine and colourings should not be listed as their presence in vapes in the UK is illegal)
  • Expiry Date
  • Batch Number
  • ECID Number
  • E-Liquid Capacity (2ml or less for vapes containing nicotine)
  • Hazard Statements (Nicotine is an addictive substance, not for under 18s or pregnant and breastfeeding women)

The ECID number can be checked on the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) website using their search facility. This allows you to check if the vape you’ve purchased is approved for sale in the UK, and subsequently whether or not its sale was legal.

Big brands such as Elf Bar, Lost Mary etc will often display their own unique label on their packaging that can be scratched off to reveal a unique authenticity code that can be checked on their website to discover whether that vape is genuine or fake - this is possibly the best way to avoid fake Lost Mary vapes and ensure your vapes are safe for use.

The font, colour and shape of the vape are also key indicators as to whether a vape is a counterfeit or not, although determining a vapes authenticity this way isn’t as reliable as checking its ECID number.

Exceptions to the rule

We mentioned previously that most legitimate vapes will only offer around 600 puffs and hold a maximum of 2ml of vape juice - but this isn't always the case. There are now several disposable vapes on the market that are capable of providing more than 600 puffs or contain more than 2ml of vape liquid and are still TPD compliant.

An example of this would be the Elux Legend 3500 Puffs 0mg - you might think these vapes fake due to their high puff count and large e-liquid content, but they’re still legal because they do not contain nicotine. Other big puff disposable vapes like the new IVG 2400 have found ways sound the 600 puff limit whilst remaining TPD compliant by incorporating prefilled 2ml pods into their disposable devices - each pod is prefilled with 20mg vape juice that’s completely legal, but since there are 4 of them fitted into one battery the vape can last for more than 2000 puffs at a time.

This can make telling legal vapes apart from illegal or fake vapes quite difficult as the size and puff count are quite different to the average single use vape.

What can you do if you encounter fake nicotine vapes?

It’s important to remember that if you purchase a fake or illegal vape you’re legally entitled to a full refund - it’s also a good idea to report fake vapes and any seller or distributor of fake vapes to Trading Standards. They might not be able to assist you with your refund, if you haven’t already received your money back, but they can take legal action against the individual to prevent them from repeating the offence in future.

You’re not obligated to report the seller, but it’s important that we prevent these people from distributing potentially harmful vapes and see them prosecuted to protect our communities against what could be dangerous disposables.

Avoiding fake vapes

One of the best ways to protect yourself from the risk of fake vapes is to prevent yourself from purchasing them entirely. To minimise your chances of purchasing fake disposables you should only buy from selected retailers such as dedicated vape stores (like ourselves) or directly from the manufacturers. Customer satisfaction and safety is our highest priority, which is why we only purchase from trusted sources such as verified sellers or from the manufacturers themselves - to check if your retailer is a trusted and reputable vape supplier you can check the UKVIA website to see if they’re a member.

We know how easy and convenient it is to just grab a vape from your local store whilst you’re out and about or in a hurry, but as we’ve explained, doing so can have unintended consequences. Fake vapes aren’t just bad for your health, but they’re also bad for the vape industry, as those who supply genuine vapes will have to lower their prices in order to compete with the cheap fake vapes, resulting in legitimate suppliers eventually resorting to stocking low quality or poorly made vapes simply to keep up with their criminal competitors.

The illegal disposable vape trade and the sale of vapes to minors has put the industry at risk as it comes under fire from governing bodies for its seemingly lackadaisical approach to vaping regulations - however for most of us this couldn;t be further from the truth. We care about our customers and providing them with the best quality real vapes at affordable prices - we’re also strictly against the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to those under the age of 18, which was one of the reasons put forward for banning disposable vapes.

Moving forward it's imperative that the vaping community bands together and refuses to purchase illicit vapes from unlawful suppliers - only then will our industry be safe from further restrictions that could see us losing access to our favourite flavours and vape kits.

If you’re against the flavour ban that the government is currently considering, make your voice heard by signing the petition to prevent the ban of flavoured e-liquids.

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Author: Taz Dean

Taz Dean has had a ten year career in the vaping industry. He has helped build business', develop products and create e-liquid lines globally. As an ex smoker, avid vaper and vaping advocate, he has years of knowledge and experience on aspects of the vaping industry, from the shop floor all the way to distribution . This unique insight helps with his unique perspective and engaging informational content.

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