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Hidden Dangers of Illicit Disposable Vapes

Did you know that 1 in 3 disposable vapes sold are illegal, as reported by the BBC and Trading Standards? In this article, we will delve into the dangers of unregulated disposable vapes that are often sold by the same retailers who target children, the potential risks they pose to users, and the negative impact they have on harm reduction efforts and the reputation of vaping as a safer alternative to smoking. We will also discuss how you can easily identify and avoid illegal disposable vapes to protect yourself and support the legitimate vaping industry.

Safety of Vape Devices

Vape devices have been shown by the UK government to be far less harmful than smoking, based on multiple in-depth reviews of the evidence. Moreover, vape devices have significantly improved over time, with vape manufacturers working diligently to eliminate potentially harmful elements in e-liquids in order to prioritize harm reduction. However, non-compliant disposable vapes sold by unscrupulous retailers who also sell to children are unlikely to prioritize quality and safety. Therefore, it is crucial to purchase legal vape devices to ensure maximum benefits and safety.

Supporting Retailers who Market to Children

Retailers who sell illegal disposable vapes often target adolescents, and purchasing from them directly supports their businesses. These sellers frequently make higher profit margins, as they do not pay taxes on illegal devices. It is essential to avoid buying from these sellers in order to withdraw financial support from those who undermine the integrity of vaping and harm reduction efforts. Vaping is intended to be a safer alternative to smoking, and introducing young people to nicotine through illegal vapes goes against harm reduction goals.

Nicotine Levels in Illegitimate Devices

Reputable sellers provide information on nicotine levels in e-liquids, which allows users to make informed choices. However, illegitimate devices do not provide this information, posing potential risks to users. While nicotine limits on vaping in the UK may be considered low for heavy smokers, it is still important to know the nicotine content in e-liquids. Without this information, users may unknowingly consume excessive nicotine levels, resulting in adverse effects such as feeling woozy or sick, or unintentionally increasing nicotine addiction. Therefore, it is crucial to choose legitimate devices from reputable sellers.

Undermining the Legitimate Vaping Industry

The success of the vaping industry depends on a strong, reputable, and legitimate industry that can promote the benefits of vaping, improve safety standards, and advocate for sensible regulations that benefit both vapers and smokers. However, illegal vapes take money away from the legitimate industry and contribute to the profits of criminals who are often involved in other illegal activities. Additionally, the negative media coverage of illegal vapes often does not distinguish between law-abiding businesses and those that break the law, resulting in a negative image for vaping as a whole. This can lead to increased restrictions, flavor bans, and other regulations on vaping devices, which further undermines the vaping industry. It is important to support the legitimate vaping industry by avoiding illegal vapes.

How to Identify a Non-compliant Disposable Vape

Puff Count as a Sign of Illegitimate Vapes

One relatively easy way to identify an illegal disposable vape is to look at the puff count. Although there is no legal limit on puff counts, disposable vapes should contain a maximum of 2ml of e-liquid according to EU and UK regulations. This is often translated into a puff count, which is typically around 600. However, disposable vapes with excessively high puff counts, such as 3000 or 6000, are a clear indication that they contain more than 2ml of a pictogram, indicating the presence of nicotine. Make sure to check for warning labels on the packaging of disposable vapes, and if they are missing, it could be a red flag that the device is non-compliant and potentially illegal.

Branding and packaging

Another way to identify a non-compliant disposable vape is to look at the branding and packaging. Legitimate vaping products usually have professional branding and packaging with clear information about the product, including ingredients, nicotine levels, and safety warnings. Non-compliant devices, on the other hand, may have generic or poorly designed packaging, with little to no information about the product. Illegitimate devices may also have branding that mimics popular vape brands or looks suspiciously similar to well-known tobacco products, which is a tactic used by some sellers to deceive customers. Always be cautious of suspicious branding and packaging when purchasing disposable vapes.


While price alone may not be a definitive indicator of the legality of a disposable vape, it can be a clue to be cautious. Non-compliant devices are often sold at unusually low prices compared to legitimate vaping products. This is because sellers of illegal vapes may cut corners in manufacturing and quality control, resulting in cheaper production costs. If a disposable vape is priced significantly lower than the average market price, it could be a sign that it is non-compliant and potentially dangerous. Always be wary of unusually low-priced disposable vapes and do thorough research before making a purchase.

Online marketplaces and social media

Another common place where non-compliant disposable vapes are sold is on online marketplaces and social media platforms. Illicit sellers often use these platforms to reach a wide audience and offer their products at discounted prices. However, buying disposable vapes from unknown sellers on online marketplaces or social media can be risky, as it's difficult to verify the legitimacy of the product and the seller. It's always safer to purchase from reputable retailers or authorized dealers who have a physical store and a track record of selling legitimate vaping products.

Reporting non-compliant devices

If you come across a disposable vape that you suspect to be non-compliant or illegal, it's important to report it to the appropriate authorities. In the UK, you can report non-compliant vaping products to Trading Standards, which is responsible for enforcing regulations on consumer goods, including vaping products. You can also report suspicious products to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates nicotine-containing products, including e-cigarettes. Reporting non-compliant devices helps protect consumers and supports efforts to enforce regulations and maintain the integrity of the vaping industry.


Illicit disposable vapes pose hidden dangers to consumers, harm the reputation of the vaping industry, and support sellers who market to children. It's crucial for vapers to be aware of the risks associated with non-compliant disposable vapes and take steps to identify and avoid them. By purchasing from reputable sellers, checking for warning labels, examining branding and packaging, being cautious of unusually low prices, and avoiding unknown sellers on online marketplaces or social media, vapers can protect themselves and support the legitimate vaping industry. Additionally, reporting non-compliant devices to the appropriate authorities helps ensure that regulations are enforced and consumers are protected. Stay informed, be vigilant, and make responsible choices when purchasing disposable vapes to safeguard your health and the integrity of the vaping community.

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