Counterfeit products have been an issue with almost every product for decades now, and it has finally bled into the vape market. More specifically, the disposable vape market is suffering the most. In recent years, shady players have been counterfeiting all of the most popular vaping products, including vape mods, vape tanks, pod vapes, disposables, batteries, chargers — you name it.
You have to be extremely careful about where you’re purchasing your products from. However, even if you purchase your products from a reputable source, there’s still the possibility that a fake has slipped through into their inventory without their knowledge. So what can you do?
We will go over some important aspects of the fake product market, as well as why they should be avoided. We also detail a number of things that consumers can do to avoid falling victim to counterfeit vaping products.
The Problem with Counterfeit Disposables
As with all things, knowledge is paramount. Understanding how counterfeit vape products negatively affect the image that vapes currently have, as well as how this influences legislation, is an important first step in bettering the current vaping landscape. By far the most relevant market for this is the disposable market.
No Quality Control
The most important aspect of counterfeit vaping products is the lack of manufacturing regulations.
The reason this is the most important is because it can affect anyone that vapes, not just the underage population who so many are concerned about.
Manufacturers that are willing to flaunt the legal system by making and distributing products that they are fully aware are in violation of existing laws will be the first to bypass regulations to increase their profit margins.
In addition to this, they are typically selling their products under the guise that it is a different company altogether. This means they are even less likely to be legally persecuted.
Another issue that customers face from counterfeit products is their relationship with underage customers.
In most cases, the retailer that has acquired the counterfeit products will have some indication that the products are not legitimate. This means that before they have even begun to market their wares, they are already breaking the law.
It then is not the biggest jump in logic to assume that if the retailer is willing to save the costs on their stock to increase their profits, their moral compass would most likely not have trouble with selling to the youth population.
“Non-compliant vape products are also associated with non-compliant sales, often to underage consumers,” said Gillian Golde, the CEO of the Independent British Vape Trade Association.
Companies that product fake vaping products are already in the business of trying to fool you by passing off a counterfeit product as the genuine thing, so why would they care about your health? Fake vaping products, especially disposables and ejuices, could contain all sorts of chemicals or materials that the genuine product does not. While this may not necessarily be done intentionally, lax manufacturing processes and unsanitary production environments make it more likely that contaminants have made their way into the finished product.
Surging Market of Fakes
The disposable market has garnered a lot of attention due to its surging popularity. This has brought almost every manufacturer to the table, legitimate or otherwise.
The opportunity to capitalize on such popularity is not something many will willingly miss. By and large, the manufacturer of disposable vapes is incredibly cheap and the demand is high.
The lack of regulation seen in a number of countries means that suppliers will happily take their chances in order to meet the demand that is currently displayed.
To make these matters worse, these counterfeit products are often found in conjunction with the black markets that have been seen as a result of prohibitionist regulations.
How to Protect Yourself From Fakes
The first step in protecting yourself from counterfeit products is knowing how to identify them. Unfortunately, because a lot of these products are coming from Shenzhen, China – the same place the real products are made – means it can be pretty tough to figure this out.
It is no secret that vapers are not the biggest fans of regulations. Ironically, these can be one of the best guiding lights in figuring out if a product is counterfeit.
Of course, regulations change from place to place, so it is important to stay up to date with your country’s laws on vaping, disposables in particular.
The United Kingdom has possibly the best system in catching the fakes out. By adopting and promoting the use of vape products in a well regulated market, rather than the prohibitionist tactics found in places like the US, means that the small deviations that manufacturers of counterfeit products use can be caught easier.
1. Purchase from a Reputable Source
The best way to protect yourself from fake vaping products is by making your purchases from a reputable store. Whether this is an online vape shop or a brick and mortar vape store, make sure that they are trustworthy. You can do some research on the store you’re purchasing from to see if any other consumers have reported purchasing fakes from that location. You can also check the reviews of that store. In most cases, purchasing from a well-known and long-established vape store is your best bet. Sure, Bob down the street says that he can get you Puffbar’s for $1.50 each, but what are the chances that they are real?
2. Check the Authenticity Label/Code
Most manufacturers are well aware that their products are being counterfeited. In order to protect their consumers, many manufacturers label their vape products with a code or authenticity sticker which can be used to verify if the product is real or not.
This authenticity verification label is most often found on disposable vapes and ejuices, but they can sometimes be found on mods, tanks, and pod vapes too.
Check the packaging of your product for an authenticity label. This is often a shiny sticker or a QR code. In most cases, you just scan the QR code or input the code on the box into the manufacturer’s website. If you want to be sure that your product is authentic, this is one of the best ways to tell.
3. Check the Maximum Capacity
One of the simplest ways to tell if a disposable vape is counterfeit is if its tank capacity is larger than the allowable size or the size offered on the manufacturer’s website. This is particularly true for the European market where these limits are common.
For example, a vape with a capacity of more than 2ml is very likely a fake in most places in Europe.
For better or worse there are no limits like this throughout most of the US, meaning it can require more knowledge to catch a fake.
However, consumers can check on a brand’s website for the capacity listed for a specific product. If the product they are seeing in store does not match this, it is probably a fake.
4. What is the Nicotine Strength?
Similarly, the nicotine concentration is another clear way to distinguish the real from the counterfeit.
In most European countries, a limit of 20mg/ml has or 2% has been implemented. However, 50mg/ml or 5% is a very common concentration for disposables. This means that finding a stronger vape is very likely.
There are no regulations like this in place yet for the US, but a national limit of 20 mg/ml has been in discussion for a few years already.
5. Check the Total Number of Puffs
Some disposable vapes will forgo information about the tank size and instead mark their products with the total number of puffs on average.
In Europe, this is typically limited to 600 puffs.
“The products which we’re seeing coming into the country at the moment have 3,500 puffs on them and some have 7,000 puffs, so they are illegal and cannot be supplied to anyone,” James Whiddett said in an interview with the BBC.
Again, because there are no limits on capacity in America as of yet, this is not applicable. However, if the device is offering a tank size that does not match the estimated puffs, this could be the result of illegitimate packaging for a fake product.
As a rough estimate, a 2ml tank should net between 600 and 800 puffs.
6. What is the Largest Refill Bottle Volume?
A step away from the disposable products, there can also be counterfeit refill bottles.
E-liquid refills have been limited in Europe to 10ml, so anything larger is likely a fake product.
While the US does not have this restriction, checking the manufacturer’s bottle sizes is a good way to determine if the product is legit. If a retailer is selling a well-known e-liquid in a size that does not match the manufacturers listed offerings, this is a giveaway that it is fake.
7. Compare the Packaging
In the case of a product that meets all of the above, there may still be ways to pick up on fake products.
Legitimate manufacturers will typically spend a decent amount of time and money to ensure their product looks high-quality. Counterfeit manufacturers are not concerned with this as much, rather opting to save costs.
Packaging that has spelling errors, blurry images or lettering, or incorrect fonts and logos will almost always be a fake product. Again, this means it is important to check what the product should look like from the manufacturer’s website.
Adding to this, all disposable vapes will come in a sealed package. If a retailer is selling a product that is not sealed this way, it can not only be a fake product, but it could also have been tampered with.
These prerequisites can make it much easier to identify fakes. Again, the only caveat is knowing the current regulations for the country in question.
Where Do Flavor Bans Come Into Play?
Flavors are another good telltale. There are more and more places becoming subject to flavor bans. While this is not only frustrating but directly countering the potential for harm reduction, it can be a tool used to help sift out the counterfeit products.
Particularly in the US, states are beginning to implement statewide flavor bans. This is inevitably leaving consumers with only a few options.
The first being to revert back to cigarettes. The second being to seek out their preferred products through other means, be it legal or not. And the final choice, and by the least likely of all, to quit altogether.
If a flavored product is being sold in direct violation with a law that prohibits all but tobacco-flavored vapes and e-liquids, the chances are very strong that the product is fake. Not only this, but it can help discredit a lot of what that specific retailer may offer as they have potentially accepted a product that they are aware is counterfeit.
That being said, if retailers willingly violate a flavor ban to stock legitimate vapes that are flavored, it can be even harder to determine the authenticity of the products they stock.
To Wrap Up
The rising popularity of disposable vapes has created a quality control issue that poses serious risk to consumers, as well as the harm reduction profile that vaping as a whole has to offer.
There are a number of products entering the market that are not regulated to the growing standards that the vaping industry is implementing. Thankfully, consumers can easily educate themselves to combat these counterfeit products.