The Vaping Black Market - what you need to know

March 11, 2021

Vaping devices have been around for a long time now, the very first device being invented in 1963. But it wasn’t until the early-mid 2000s that vaping became a global commercial success. By 2011, the W.H.O estimated there were over 7 million people using an e-cigarette device. By 2018, this number had skyrocketed to 41 million people. They now estimate that by the end of 2021, this number will increase again to 55 million people. 

With such a huge number of people using these devices, it’s no wonder that the black market of vaping has also been steadily increasing. From counterfeit devices to liquids and coils, it’s a problem that many people aren’t fully aware of. 

The biggest problem with buying counterfeit liquids and devices is, of course, because they are not regulated. In the UK, for example, we have the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). This is the government body who regulate and enforce restrictions on vaping products, known as TPD laws. All manufacturers that sell vaping products in the UK have to submit ‘notification’ to the MHRA, which includes emissions, toxicology and other factors. These regulations are there to keep vapers safe from known harmful substances that counterfeit liquids use. Any liquids that are not regulated, do not have this extra step to ensure their safety. 

In fact, a lot of the horror stories that you hear in the news describing vaping related illnesses, are caused by counterfeit and non-regulated liquids. The CDC released a report in 2019, after investigating an increasing number in vaping related hospitalisations. They found that these liquids being used were actually illegal THC juices, THC being the chemical in cannabis that creates the ‘high’. These liquids not only contained harmful levels of THC and nicotine, but also a chemical known as Vitamin-E Acetate. A substance that is used to dilute the liquid, in order to sell more volume. 

Vitamin-E Acetate has since been linked to the majority of vaping related illnesses, and is in fact known to be extremely harmful to inhale for humans. For this reason, the use of it in the manufacturing of vape liquids has been illegal in the UK for some time, and one of the many things that the MHRA prevents from entering the legal UK market. Another perfect example of this is the ‘popcorn lung’ scare. You can read more about this here. 

What to look out for:

As long as you're buying from reputable retailers, there isn’t too much you should be concerned about. We have strict regulations and enforcement in the UK, one of the strictest in the world, and this is a good thing. 

But if you’re still concerned, there are a few things you can look for to ensure you’re using regulated products.

  • Always buy from a reputable brand/store - If the deal sounds too good to be true, it quite possibly is!
  • Your bottles should be sealed and child proof - This means you have to push the lid down before being able to unscrew it. 
  • Check for a batch number or EC-ID - Reputable brands will print a batch number, either on the bottle itself or on the label. If the product is made in the EU, it will have an EC-ID (European Community Identification) number as well. This number is assigned by the MHRA after being confirmed as TPD compliant. 
  • Check the strength of nicotine - It is illegal in the UK to sell any bottle over 10ml that contains over 20mg (2%) of nicotine. Any strength higher than this, will not be authorised by the MHRA and is not TPD compliant. This goes for E-Liquid bottles and disposable devices. 
  • Some packs of coils/devices will have an authenticity code on their packaging. This is either a holographic sticker or QR code, where you can check the products authenticity online.