It has been 20 years since the first commercially available vape came onto the market, with an estimated 82 million people now using vape products globally.1 The rise of e-cigarettes, chosen as an alternative to traditional smoking has transformed nicotine consumption. The British Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England, and the American National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, all agree that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes.2
However, as the vape market grows and begins to mature it faces challenges throughout the supply chain. Big brands in the sector have seen significant counterfeiting attacks, while the rise in unregulated illicit vape products making their way into the retail market continues to blight the reputation of the sector. These challenges pose risks to consumer safety and have far-reaching ramifications on both economic stability and brand reputation for authentic brands operating within the industry.
Governments globally address vaping risks with regulations, capping nicotine strength at 20 mg/ml, limiting tank size, and restricting refill volumes to 10 ml. Vapes that do not meet the stringent regulations are known as Illicit. These measures ensure consumer safety, offering a safer alternative to traditional smoking. Research by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) found that a third of the vape products sold in the UK do not comply with TPD regulations, including clear health warnings, nicotine details, ingredient lists, batch numbers, expiry dates, and hazard statements.3 Emphasizing the need for greater enforcement, prioritised and targeted to the geographical hot spots of criminal activity.
A growing concern
Illegal vapes seized in the first few months of 2023 in the UK were seven times higher than seizures for the whole of 2021.4 Some of these are vape products that don’t comply with UK regulations, others are counterfeit copies of popular brands.
Counterfeit products, comprising 40% to 50% of the disposable vape market, raise significant health risks for users.5 Counterfeit vaping products are manufactured in underground facilities, often with less regard for quality control, leaving consumers vulnerable to harmful components like arsenic, lead, and formaldehyde.
Counterfeiters go to great lengths to replicate reputable brands, creating low-quality imitations that fail to meet genuine vaping product standards.
These fakes often closely mimic authentic packaging and codes, deceiving consumers into purchasing replicas.
Spotting a fake vape –
- Price – Exercising caution with unusually low-priced vapes.
- Packaging – Scrutinising the packaging for signs of tampering or damage
- Branding – Paying attention to branding and logos on the device and packaging
- Manufacturer information – Verifying the manufacturer’s information present on the packaging or the device
Using counterfeit vapes carries significant health risks. The devices are often made with low-quality materials that do not meet safety standards, leading to leaks, overheating, explosion, and even fires. The dangers of counterfeit vapes include –
- Inconsistent vaping experience
- Overheating of the devices
- Production of toxins due to overheating
- Low-quality materials leading to quick deterioration
- Poor technology and inadequate regulation of electric current
- Unreliable safety features and battery impurities resulting in fire or explosions
The fight against counterfeiting, illicit trade, and diversion in the vaping industry rages on. Governments, regulatory bodies, and responsible manufacturers work tirelessly to protect consumers and uphold the industry's integrity. Employing comprehensive brand protection solutions, they strive to guarantee the authenticity and quality of vaping products, empowering consumers to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit items.
While vaping provides an alternative to traditional smoking, addressing the challenges that jeopardize its reputation and user safety is crucial. Comprehensive brand protection solutions are being implemented to guarantee the authenticity and quality of vaping products, aiding consumers in distinguishing between genuine and counterfeit items. Educating the public about the dangers of counterfeit and illicit vape products is a vital aspect of this effort, ensuring informed consumer choices through increased awareness.
The vaping industry's path to a healthier, safer future necessitates strict regulations, heightened public awareness, and advanced brand protection measures. Effective strategies like combining authentication labels and digital traceability systems, like PURE™ and IZON® with Traceology®, deter counterfeiters and uphold supply chain integrity. Stringent legal frameworks discourage counterfeiters, fostering a secure market. Proactive consumer education by brands, highlighting the features that distinguish genuine products, is crucial. Additionally, ensuring supply chain security through adherence to strict standards in production facilities and collaboration with reputable logistics partners minimizes vulnerability points, reducing the risk of diversion and tampering.
1. Jerzyński, T. and Stimson, G.V. (2023), "Estimation of the global number of vapers: 82 million worldwide in 2021", Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 91-103. https://doi.org/10.1108/DHS-07-2022-0028
2. 9 Pros and cons of vaping to know Before starting - Vaping360 (2023). https://vaping360.com/learn/pros-cons-benefits-vaping/.
3. Limited, F.S. Illicit Vapes Top list of high street threats, CTSI - The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, UK. Available at: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/news-policy-campaigns/news-room/2023/illicit-vapes-top-list-of-high-street-threats-say-trading-standards-experts/
4. Huskisson, S. (2023) Illegal vape seizures in first four months of 2023 seven times whole of 2021. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/illegal-vape-seizures-first-four-30413283.
5. Stubbing out the illicit tobacco and vaping trade https://www.conveniencestore.co.uk/products-in-depth/stubbing-out-the-illicit-tobacco-and-vaping-trade/668297.article#:~:text=Shockingly%2C%20according%20to%20estimates%20from%20the%20UK%20Vaping,forefront%20in%20the%20last%20eight-nine%20months%2C%E2%80%9D%20he%20says.