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What are the hidden risks associated with Counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes?

What are the hidden risks associated with Counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes?

In recent years, the popularity of vaping has soared, with many individuals opting for the convenience and perceived safety of disposable vape devices. However, a growing concern within the vaping community revolves around the rise of counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes. These counterfeit and illegal products pose significant risks to the health and safety of consumers. In this article, we will explore the dangers associated with counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes and why it is crucial to be aware of the potential hazards they present.

What are Disposable Vapes?

Disposable vapes, also known as cig-a-likes or e-cigarettes, are single-use devices that typically come pre-filled with e-liquid up to a maximum capacity of 2ml and are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. They offer a convenient and discreet alternative to traditional vaping devices, as they require no charging or maintenance. The ease of use and affordability of disposable vapes have made them increasingly popular among smokers looking to transition to vaping.

What are Counterfeit Disposable Vapes

Counterfeit disposable vapes refer to unauthorized replicas of popular brands, often sold at a lower price point than genuine products. These counterfeit devices can be challenging to differentiate from the real ones, as manufacturers strive to mimic the appearance and packaging of well-known brands. Unfortunately, the prevalence of counterfeit disposable vapes has grown rapidly, primarily due to the high demand for these products.

What are Illegal disposable vapes

Illegal disposable vapes contain e-liquid in a singular tank which is greater than 2ml and has a total puff count greater than 600 – 700 puffs. Illegal vapes are commonly sold with a puff count of 1500, 2500, 3500 and greater.

Quality Control and Health Risks

One of the most significant concerns with counterfeit and illegal disposable vapes lies in the lack of quality control. Counterfeit manufacturers operate without adherence to industry standards and regulations, leading to the production of subpar and potentially dangerous devices. These illicit manufacturers cut corners in terms of materials used, hygiene standards, and quality of e-liquid, compromising the safety of the end-user.

Substandard Materials and Potential Hazards

Counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes often employ substandard materials that can pose serious health risks. These materials may include low-grade metals, poor-quality plastics, and inferior heating elements. When these devices are heated, they can release harmful toxins and chemicals into the vapour, which users unknowingly inhale. Prolonged exposure to these toxins may lead to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, and other adverse health effects.

Contaminated E-Liquids

The e-liquids found in counterfeit and illegal disposable vapes are another cause for concern. Illicit manufacturers may use low-quality ingredients or even mix their products with unauthorized substances. These contaminated e-liquids can contain higher levels of nicotine than indicated, as well as harmful additives and impurities. 

Lack of Safety Features

Authentic disposable vapes are designed with safety features to prevent issues such as overheating, short circuits, and battery failures. However, counterfeit devices often lack these crucial safety mechanisms. The absence of safety features increases the risk of device malfunctions, potentially resulting in overheating, explosions, or fires. The consequences of using counterfeit disposable vapes without proper safety measures can be catastrophic.

Inadequate Regulation and Legal Implications

Counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes operate within the shadows of the unregulated market, evading legal scrutiny. This lack of oversight allows illicit manufacturers to continue producing and distributing counterfeit products without facing consequences. The absence of stringent regulations makes it difficult for consumers to ascertain the authenticity and safety of the disposable vapes they purchase, further exposing them to potential harm.

A step-by-step guide to ensure disposable vapes authenticity

Purchase from a reputable retailer – To ensure that you are purchasing an authentic disposable vape, it’s important to purchase from a reputable retailer. Avoid purchasing from unknown or unverified sources, as these may be selling counterfeit products.

Check the packaging Authentic disposable vapes will have packaging that is consistent in design and quality. Check the packaging for any signs of damage, misspellings, or other inconsistencies that may indicate that the product is counterfeit.

Verify the QR code – Most disposable vapes come with a QR code that can be scanned to verify authenticity. Use your smartphone to scan the QR code and make sure that it takes you to the official Elf Bar website. If the QR code does not work or takes you to a different website, the product may be counterfeit.

Look for a scratch-off code – Some disposable vapes come with a scratch-off code that can be used to verify authenticity. Scratch off the code and enter it on the Elf Bar website to verify that the product is authentic.

The alarming discoveries unveiled by a recent investigation into counterfeit and Illegal disposable vapes 

Vapes confiscated from school pupils contain high levels of lead, nickel and chromium

Used vapes gathered at Baxter College in Kidderminster were tested in a laboratory.

The results showed children using them could be inhaling more than twice the daily safe amount of lead, and nine times the safe amount of nickel.

Some vapes also contained harmful chemicals like those in cigarette smoke.

High levels of lead exposure in children can affect the central nervous system and brain development, according to the World Health Organization.

It is thought vapes are being used widely by secondary school children and Baxter College is not alone in trying to stop them from vaping during school hours.

Lab tests: The shocking truth

The Inter Scientific laboratory, in Liverpool, which works with vape manufacturers to ensure regulatory standards are met, analysed 18 vapes.

Most were illegal and had not gone through any kind of testing before being sold in the UK.

Lab co-founder David Lawson said: “In 15 years of testing, I have never seen lead in a device.

“None of these should be on the market – they break all the rules on permitted levels of metal.

“They are the worst set of results I’ve ever seen.”

In “highlighter vapes” – designed with bright colours to look like highlighter pens – the amounts of the metals found were:

  • lead – 12 micrograms per gram, 2.4 times the stipulated safe exposure level
  • nickel – 9.6 times safe levels
  • chromium – 6.6 times safe levels

The metals were thought to come from the heating element – but the tests showed they were in the e-liquid itself.

The lab tests also found compounds called carbonyls – which break down, when the e-liquid heats up, into chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, also found in cigarette smoke – at 10 times the level in legal vapes. Some even had more than cigarettes.

Inadequate regulation and policing

Manufacturers have to follow regulations on ingredients, packaging and marketing – and all e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be registered with the Medicine and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). But the agency is not required to check the claims made in paperwork and has no power to investigate unregistered products.

MHRA head of e-cigarettes Craig Copland said the results would be reviewed to assess whether the vapes posed a health risk.

BBC News showed the findings to Baxter College pupils Leon and Oscar, whose vapes had been confiscated. They admitted in a previous interview they were hooked on nicotine and struggled to give up vaping.

The boys say it is easy to ignore the risks.

“You won’t really care, if you’re addicted to it – you’ll just forget about it,” Oscar said.

Leon said regulation and policing should be doing more to tackle the problem.

“They’re not really as bothered as they should be,” he said.

Head teacher Mat Carpenter was horrified by the findings. He has installed sensors in the school toilets to try to reduce opportunities to vape.

“It’s been part of youth culture for a long time and we are a long way behind the curve in influencing children’s behaviour around this, which is why we need such a strong message,” Mr Carpenter said.

“As a society we are capable of holding two messages, one that if you smoke already vaping can have a positive effect on your health, but children should not be vaping.”

University of Nottingham epidemiology professor John Britton, who sits on the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Group, said inhaling metals could be dangerous.

“Lead is a neurotoxin and impairs brain development, chrome and nickel are allergens and metal particles in general in the bloodstream can trigger blood clotting and can exacerbate cardiovascular disease,” he said.

“The carbonyls are mildly carcinogenic and so with sustained use will increase the risk of cancer – but in legal products, the levels of all of these things is extremely low so the lifetime risk to the individual is extremely small.”

The rise of illegal disposable vapes

But Mr Lawson said there had been a much greater rise in illegal products recently and “some of these are hard to distinguish between the ones which are potentially legal”.

The government has allocated £3m to tackle the sale of illegal vapes in England. It wants to fund more test purchases and have the products removed from shops and is calling for evidence to help cut the number of children accessing vapes.

It is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s. But a YouGov survey in March and April for Action on Smoking and Health suggests a rise in experimental vaping among 11- to 17-year-olds, from 7.7%, last year, to 11.6%.


The issue of counterfeit and illegal vapes poses significant risks and dangers to public health and safety. The proliferation of counterfeit vaping products not only undermines legitimate businesses but also jeopardizes the well-being of consumers.

Counterfeit vapes, which are often produced without adhering to proper manufacturing standards, can contain harmful substances and unknown chemicals. These substances may lead to severe health complications, including respiratory problems, lung damage, and even death. Moreover, counterfeit vapes frequently lack proper labelling and safety instructions, further increasing the potential for misuse and harm.

To address this issue, governments, regulatory authorities, and law enforcement agencies must collaborate and implement stringent measures. These measures should focus on:

Enhancing public awareness: Educating the public about the risks associated with counterfeit and illegal vapes is essential. Awareness campaigns can help consumers make informed choices and identify authentic products from counterfeit ones.

Strengthening regulations: Governments should establish comprehensive regulations that govern the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of vaping products. These regulations should include stringent quality control standards, mandatory product testing, and strict penalties for those involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit vapes.

Collaboration with industry stakeholders: Governments, regulatory bodies, and legitimate vaping industry players should work together to develop mechanisms that identify and report counterfeit products. This collaboration can involve sharing information, implementing traceability systems, and supporting legal action against counterfeiters.

Consumer protection: Authorities should prioritize consumer safety by increasing inspections, monitoring online platforms for illicit sales, and enforcing penalties for retailers selling counterfeit or illegal vapes. Consumer complaints and reports should be thoroughly investigated, and effective channels for reporting suspicious products should be established.

International cooperation: Given the global nature of the counterfeit and illegal vape trade, international cooperation is crucial. Countries should collaborate to share intelligence, harmonize regulations, and conduct joint operations to disrupt production and distribution networks.

By taking these measures, we can minimize the risks associated with counterfeit and illegal vapes, safeguard public health, and protect consumers from the dangers posed by these unregulated products. It is essential to promote a safe and responsible vaping industry that prioritizes the well-being of its customers.

Credit article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-65614078