Counterfeit Disposables seized by the tonne in UK


Disposable Vapes have become the “in thing” within the vaping industry, with the popularity in usage absolutely skyrocketing over the last 12 months. It’s quite a common sight to see people using them while you’re out and about, it’s also sadly common to see them discarded here there and everywhere other than bins once they are finished with. And what I have noticed is, they are on sale in shops you’d least expect vaping products to be sold in.

They’ve been spotted on sale in mobile phone repair shops, convenience shops, independent discount shops, and even in American sweets shops based in London. The common problem that is arising though is that millions of illicit Disposables are being seized across the country, and most notably from shops like the aforementioned.

In this article, I’m going to look at the huge problem that Trading Standards have on their hands, with them constantly carrying out raids and seizing millions of counterfeit vaping products from these shops collectively, and what needs to be done to really crack down on the seemingly never slowing down surge of counterfeit vaping products entering and being sold in the UK to unsuspecting customers.

What makes a Disposable “illicit”?

As I said, everywhere you go these days, you see Disposable Vapes being sold in the most unsuspecting places. And whilst most of them are all above board and correct to be sold, there are still a lot of devices out there that do not meet the legal requirements to be sold in the UK, yet they are still sold in abundance. 

So, what constitutes towards a Disposable being classed as “illicit”? Disposables that are being seized by Trading Standards feature a vape juice capacity of more than 2ml, with some of them containing over 6 times the legal limit! And also, the nicotine content is considerably higher than the legal 20mg limit, with strengths being sold upwards to 50mg. This is a very high amount of Nicotine for vape juice, and if someone purchased one of these, who normally doesn’t vape/smoke or have a high tolerance to Nicotine, this could lead to them suffering from some very adverse side effects from the Nicotine content being far too high for them.

The strict tobacco control laws that all vaping products must adhere to

If you weren’t already aware, all vaping related products must adhere to the tobacco control laws that were set out in the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which was introduced in 2016. These laws were introduced to ensure there was consistency and regulation across all products, and consumers could rest at ease knowing what they were buying was safe to use, as anything not fit for sale that did not pass the regulatory checks would not be able to be sold on the UK market.

  • All tanks for e-liquid must have a capacity of 2ml or less.
  • The maximum nicotine strength for e-liquid cannot exceed 20mg.

Those are only 2 things on the long list of regulatory necessities set out in the TPD document, but they’re the two most important ones that have significant relation to this article.

fake disposables seized

Seize and Destroy

Since last year, Trading Standards have had their work cut out for them with the sheer volume of reports coming from people about shops illegally selling counterfeit vaping products in abundance, and in some cases to underage youths so disgruntled parents are queuing up demanding something is done about these shops having no regard towards the rules.

Raids started happening across the country on these shops, with the Trading Standards Agencies specifically targeting Mobile phone repair shops, convenience stores, and discount shops who were selling these illicit devices, and the raids were successful with hundreds, if not thousands of illicit vaping products being seized from the shops by the TSA’s. Other counterfeit products were seized with these Disposables including trainers, handbags, and games console accessories which shows the shops owners didn’t care to follow UK trading laws on the whole, let alone the TPD Laws that have been set out.

Last year saw multiple raids across different counties taking place, with them number of products being seized reaching absurdly high levels, and in recent reports from the Trading Standards Agencies, they estimate TSAs based in the North of England have collectively now seized over 1.4 tonnes of counterfeit disposables from various shops in the last six months of 2022. A staggering amount and to put it into hindsight, that’s more than the weight of an adult Rhino!

And that’s just in one area of England remember. There were also countless amounts of raids and seizing of illicit products in London as well, with American Sweet Shops which have started cropping up around the capital in abundance being the main perpetrators.

Illicit vapes being sold to Minors as well

Another problem which has arisen and causing Trading Standards Agencies more work and prompting these raids to be carried out, is the reports coming from disgruntled parents after their child had been sold a Disposable Vape by one of these offending shops.

Trading Standards Agencies enlisted the help of volunteers who were under the legal age of 18 to enter these premises as carry out a “test purchase” and see if the minor would be successful in obtaining a vaping device without being asked to prove their age. And just in the Northeast alone, over 40% of these test purchases were successful and someone under the legal age to buy a Disposable Vape was given one with no regards of checking ID. Mind blowing.

What does the Chartered Trading Standards Institute say on the matter?

The prompt to write this article came from seeing the CTSI having their say on this matter, and I will document it below. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute are one of the worlds longest-established organisations dedicated to the field of Trading Standards and Consumer Protection.

They recently published their own article surrounding this matter, and declared that illicit vaping products are top of the list of the biggest high street threats, and something must be done to ensure this threat is reduced to the lowest amount possible.

They carried out their own research, and found that Trading Standards agents professionals all shared the same concerns over the sheer volume of illicit vaping products being flaunted on UK high streets today. With over 60% of those asked labelling them as the “biggest risk” and concerned these shops are not only selling illicit vaping products, but also selling them to children effectively.

The CTSI urged vape retailers to act responsibly and ensure that they comply with the law when selling vaping products, ensuring all products are genuine and fit for sale, as well as ensuring they operate the “Challenge 25” policy set out by the Trading Standards Agencies. They did also back the fact that vaping carries significantly less harm than smoking, but also could not resist a quick reference that Disposables are being purposefully designed to appeal to children “with bright colours and packaging, as well as flavours reminiscent of sweets and drinks”


How to check if your Disposable is legal to be sold in the UK

I’ve written a separate article on how to check the legitimacy of your vaping products, but I’ll give a quick run down here of what you can check the ensure what you are buying is genuine and not illicit.

  • It doesn’t contain more than 2ml of e-liquid
  • The nicotine content is not higher than 20mg
  • The packaging will come with a QR code that takes you to the manufacturers website
  • There will be a small safety leaflet included in the box. These have to be included as part of TPD safety laws

If you find you have bought a Disposable that doesn’t match the above criteria, or you believe that there is a shop near you selling illicit products, contact your local Trading Standards Agency to raise your concerns, and let them take over from there!