In 2023 there were 4.7 million vapers in the UK, with the market for 2024 estimated to be worth £1.4bn and a total market share of 83%, according to experts at ECigintelligence. Fake vapes are already a big problem within the UK with more than 4.5m vapes being seized at our borders over the last 12 months, four times more than 2022. With the proposed ban on disposable vapes, a huge surge of fake vapes are expected to reach the UK over the next 12 months, which could bring a number of health risks to users. 

These counterfeit vapes are often produced using cheap materials and without proper testing or regulation, then are sold to unsuspecting customers for the full price. They can often break quickly or even be dangerous to use, and it is often not until their vape breaks that these customers find out they have been duped.

Illicit vapes have been found to contain a large amount of heavy metals including high levels of lead, nickel and chromium along with other dangerous ingredients. With disposable vapes popular among children and teenagers, exposure to metals can have detrimental effects to the central nervous system and brain development, according to the World Health Organization. Lab tests from The Inter Scientific found that these metals were coming from the heating elements, but were also found in the e-liquid itself. Fortunately, the Government is working to crack down on the illicit vaping market with a proposal for new powers to enforcement authorities along with increased funding, and we have seen many reports of Trading Standards raiding businesses selling illicit vapes, with some even resulting the the temporary closure of the business.

But how can you tell if a vape is fake? While there are many tell-tale signs that can indicate if a vape is fake or not, the main way to check the legitimacy and safety of a vape is through verification. However, this process is not known to many and is the quickest and easiest way to verify the authenticity of a vape.

How to verify the authenticity of your disposable vape

Most legal and authentic disposable vapes will have authenticity verification on the packaging, so it is a good idea to keep the original packaging, however this is not the case for all disposables so if your device does not have an authenticity sticker that does not necessarily mean it is fake. Check the packaging of the disposable vape to see if there is an authenticity sticker, this sticker may contain a QR code, a hologram and/or a scratch off label containing a security code underneath it. 

Hologram - the hologram will feature either a logo or the brand name. Check closely to see if the font and logo look correct as many illicit vapes will use the wrong style of font or design. 

Scratch-Off Security Code - under the scratch off material you will find a security number which you can input on the verification page and this will then let you know if this product is authentic and therefore safe to use.

QR Code - scan the QR code with your phone camera and this will take you to the brand verification page where you can confirm if this vape is legitimate or not.

Below you will find links to all of the most popular disposable vape brand's verification pages, along with a description of the type of authentication they use on their products.

Vape brandVerification processVerification page
AspireFind the 'scratch and check' label on the box, scratch it to reveal the security code, and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
BrewBoxConsumers can check validity of a product by entering the ECID number from the product packaging on the MHRA siteVerification link
Double DripDouble Drip packages contain a QR code, simply scratch away the coating to reveal the verification code and scan the QR code to enter the number shown to verify your product.Verification link
DotmodScratch off the security label to reveal the last 4 digits of the code and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
EfestLocate the anti-counterfeit sticker on the box, find the 20-digit code, and enter it on the verification site.Verification link
EleafScratch off the coating on the authentication sticker to reveal the code and enter it on the provided link.Verification link
Elf BarElf Bars contain a hologram sticker, micro text and an anti-counterfeiting pattern. Simply scan the QR code and it’ll confirm if the product is genuine.Verification link
ELUXScratch off the holographic coating on the authentication label, then scan the QR code to enter the authentication code.Verification link
FreemaxScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the code and verify it on the provided website.Verification link
Geek BarScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the hidden code and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
GeekvapeScratch off the little sticker on the box to reveal the code and verify it on the website.Verification link
Gold BarFind the batch code/number on the packaging and enter it on the provided link to verify the product's legitimacy.Verification link
Happy VibesScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the code and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
HYLAScan the QR code or visit the provided link and enter the security code to verify the vape.Verification link
InnokinScratch off the authentication sticker on the box to reveal the code and verify it on the website.Verification link
IVG BarScratch off the holographic scratch-off section on the packaging to reveal the QR code or security number and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
JoyetechScratch off the security code on the packaging and enter it on the provided link to verify the product.Verification link
Lost MaryScratch off the section on the side of the packaging to reveal the QR code, then scan it and enter the security number on the verification page.Verification link
Lost VapeCheck the box for a 16-digit security code or move the box to see if the hologram moves, indicating authenticity.Verification link
OXVACheck if the hologram moves or scratch off the security sticker to reveal a code, then enter it on the provided link to verify.Verification link
PuffMi BarScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the security code and enter it on the verification page.Verification link
SKE Crystal BarCrystal Bar packaging contains a verification code enabling you to authenticate your vape on their website.Verification link
SMOKDownload the IVPS Tour app and scan both QR codes to verify the product.Verification link
UwellEnter the anti-counterfeit code found on the box into the provided link to check authenticity.Verification link
VaporessoScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the code and enter it on the provided link to verify authenticity.Verification link
Vape BarsScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the security code and enter it on the provided link to verify authenticity.Verification link
VOOPOOScratch off the coating on the authentication label to reveal the QR code and security number, then enter it on the provided site or check the hologram for authenticity.Verification link

Ways to check if your vape is fake

Some illicit vapes are obvious and can easily be identified as counterfeits, for example if the design is incorrect, the spelling of the brand or product name is incorrect or altered, or the materials and craftsmanship are obviously sub-par.

However, some counterfeit vapes can be very convincing and are not revealed to the customer as fakes until they break and are not covered by any warranty and are non-refundable. If you are in the market for a new vape and want to make sure the product you are buying is authentic, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Packaging: check the packaging of the vape. All legitimate vapes will come in factory-sealed packaging.
  • Printing quality: look closely at the printing and check if there are any misspellings, low-resolution images or uneven printing.
  • Retailer reputation: only buy vapes from reputable retailers you trust and know of.
  • Price discrepancy: if the price is too good to be true then it probably is. Authentic vapes are usually within a certain price range, anything lower is likely to be counterfeit.
  • Authentication sticker: if a vape is missing an authentication sticker then it is likely counterfeit. Many reputable vape brands include serial numbers or authenticity codes on their products for verification, however not all do so this alone is not a definitive indication of a counterfeit vape.
  • Nicotine warning: all vape products containing nicotine will have a warning label, if this is missing then the product is likely non-compliant.
  • High nicotine strength: the highest nicotine strength allowed within the UK is 20 mg/ml. If the product is advertised as having a higher strength than this, the product does not meet UK regulations and is not legal to sell. 
  • Over 2ml vape tank: all refillable vape tanks within the UK are limited to 2ml at the point of sale, anything over this will is not legal. However, some disposable vapes may have larger e-liquid capacities due to their design and whether they contain nicotine, we take a closer look at this later in the post.
  • Build quality: authentic vapes are typically well-built with attention to detail. Look for any signs of shoddy craftsmanship, such as loose parts, rough edges, or cheap materials.
  • Performance: fake vapes may not perform as well as genuine ones. If you notice any issues with vapor production, flavor quality, or battery life, it could be a sign that the product is fake.
  • User reviews and feedback: before making a purchase, research the product and read reviews from other users. If many reviews mention counterfeit issues or poor quality, it's best to avoid buying from that source.
  • Lack of warranty or support: authentic vape products usually come with warranties and customer support from the manufacturer. If the product doesn't come with these assurances, it could be a fake.

Are all disposable vapes limited to 2ml of vape juice?

Under TRPR and TPD guidelines, refillable vape tanks cannot be larger than 2ml at the point of purchase. This also applies to nicotine-containing disposable vapes, so many standard disposables will contain 2ml of e-liquid. However, there are disposable devices which come with more than 2ml of e-liquid, and this does not necessarily mean that they are counterfeit or non-compliant.

Disposable vapes which do not contain nicotine are not included in the 2ml e-liquid limit, and so many nicotine-free disposable vapes, like the ELUX Legend range, contain more than 2ml of vape juice and can offer a much higher puff count.

Other disposable vapes utilise a unique design that allows for a larger e-liquid content while still remaining compliant. For example, the IVG 2400 range contains four different 2ml pods within the device, and once one is empty the user can turn the device to move to the next pod. This allows each device to contain 8ml of vape juice an offer up to 2400 puffs.

Another way that these big puff disposable vapes can offer a higher puff count is by including a detachable refill container with up to 10ml of additional e-liquid. The Elf Bar AF5000 for example comes prefilled with 2ml of e-liquid, but also comes with a 10ml refill container that allows you to continue using the device once the initial 2ml of vape juice has been used.

The time to be concerned that a disposable vape is not compliant is when they claim to contain more than 2ml of nicotine-containing e-liquid prefilled into the device, without these additional pods or refill containers. The best way to avoid these illicit products is to purchase from reputable retailers, who you can trust to only stock products which are compliant with UK law.

Our promise to our customers

In our high street stores it is not uncommon for customers to come in looking for advice on a device they have brought from a less than reputable outlet that has stopped working or is not performing in the way they had hoped, only for us to inform them that we suspect it is a counterfeit.

This is never what a customer would want to hear when they have spent their hard-earned money on something they thought was a legitimate device, which is why at Evapo we only source our roductps from the most reputable stockists.

When speaking about the issue of counterfeiting in the vape industry, Evapo founder & CEO Andrej Kuttruf stated;

‘Here at Evapo we always ensure that the devices and e-liquids we stock are the best and are sourced directly from the most reputable stockists.

All of the e-cigarettes and e-liquids in your local Evapo store and the Evapo website are quality products that are fully TRPR and TPD compliant and have undergone full manufacturer testing and quality control.

We pride ourselves on being known for the quality of our stock and the knowledge of our staff, and we are proud to be there at every stage of our customer’s journey as they switch from smoking to vaping, that’s The Evapo Way!’

If you are concerned that you may have purchased a product which is non-compliant or could be fake, you are welcome to drop in to your local Evapo store or reach out to our Customer Service team to get advice and recommendations on how to proceed.

Graphic demonstrating how to spot a fake vape

Sources

ash.org.uk 08/2023

bbc.co.uk 27/01/2024

bbc.co.uk 23/05/2023