Fake Vapes Seized by Police

Everyone knows that you always need to be on the lookout for counterfeit products when you buy expensive items like luxury handbags and high-end perfumes. The truth, though, is that luxury items are the least of your worries when it comes to fake products because you’re already wary of counterfeits and will most likely do a bit of research before buying those products. The truly dangerous fake products are the ones that you buy with no skepticism because the fact that the products could be fake has never occurred to you. Fake vapes definitely fall into that category.

Top photo: Police confiscated over £100,000 in fake vapes from a London, UK candy shop in 2023. Evening Standard.

How many fake vapes are being sold in stores around the world today? Over the course of about a year and a half, EB Designs – the maker of Elf Bar – worked with local authorities in China to find and shut down the makers of fake Elf Bars. The operation was very successful and resulted in the seizure of more than 2 million fake vapes.

The problem, though, is that 2 million fake Elf Bars is actually a fairly small amount compared to the number of devices people use each day. Between the United States and the United Kingdom, more than 500,000 disposable vapes are discarded every day – and those are just two nations. It’s possible that all of the vapers worldwide use upwards of a million disposable vapes per day. If one company’s sting operation results in the seizure of over 2 million fake vapes, there are probably millions of other counterfeit devices still in the wild.

Based on the statistics, it’s likely that fake vapes are on store shelves right now in virtually every part of the world – and that means you need to know how to identify and avoid those devices if you want to have a good experience. In this article, we’re going to tell you some of the tricks that you can use to spot fake vapes. First, though, why should you be so concerned about this issue?

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Why Are Fake Vapes Such a Major Problem?

How to Spot a Fake Vape

More than 3,000 fake vapes were found in a shop in Salford, UK in 2023. Manchester Evening News.

In order to be a truly astute vape consumer, it’s important to understand why fake vapes are such a major problem in the first place. That way, you can know why it’s so important to know that the products you’re buying are authentic. So, why should you be concerned about fake vapes?

  • The fact that the product in the box doesn’t match what’s on the label means that you have no idea at all what you’re getting. In fact, you have no reason to assume that the product is even safe to use.
  • A fake vape could have a battery cell that was either rejected by the original manufacturer or reclaimed from another device. It may not hold enough of a charge to last the number of puffs claimed on the device’s label, and it may fail to recharge when you connect it to your computer. It might even be prone to overheating.
  • A fake vape may not contain the correct amount of e-liquid to supply the number of puffs stated on the package. It could have the wrong nicotine strength. It certainly won’t taste the same as an authentic device, and it may potentially contain unsafe additives.
  • A fake vape might not be made by workers who have been paid a fair wage. It’s even possible that a fake device could have dangerous contaminants due to being produced in unsanitary conditions.

Where Do Fake Vapes Come From?

Most fake vapes come from Shenzhen in China. There are tens of thousands of factories in Shenzhen, and the vast majority of the world’s electronic goods are produced there. Many factories have the capability to produce almost any type of device on demand, so it would be trivial for most of those factories to make vaping products.

How Can You Spot a Fake Vape?

Fake Elf Bar Hologram Sticker

A real Elf Bar has a complex holographic sticker on the box.

Now that you understand what a serious concern fake vapes are, it’s time to learn how to spot them. We’ll begin with some general tips that can help you identify any fake vape, and then we’ll continue with some more specific tips that apply to individual brands.

  • A fake vape will often have a box that doesn’t look as nice as the box for an authentic product. The images and text may be blurry due to the use of a low-quality printer or because the maker of the product tried to scan and copy a real box. If the maker of a fake device tries to recreate the design of an authentic box from scratch, the images and fonts may not quite match. Also, the boxes for fake vapes are often made from low-quality cardstock that crumples easily.
  • A fake vape may not have the holographic stickers or other anti-counterfeiting measures found on authentic devices.
  • A fake vape will never have a code that passes the original manufacturer’s authenticity checker. In the past, it was common for thousands of fake vapes to all have exactly the same authenticity code because the manufacturers knew that most people would never check them. Today, the makers of fake vapes have gotten smarter, and a few actually put fake QR codes on their products’ boxes. If the QR code on a box is fake, it’ll send you to a website that claims your device to be authentic even though it isn’t. If a QR code sends you to any website other than the original manufacturer’s site, the device is definitely fake.
  • A fake vape may not display the correct nicotine warning for the region in which it’s sold and may also be sold in a flavor that’s not officially available in that region.
  • Fake vapes often have signs of poor build quality, such as misaligned parts.
  • If it’s a brand and flavor that you’re very familiar with, you’ll probably notice that a fake vape doesn’t taste the same as an authentic device.

With those general tips out of the way, let’s talk about a few specific brands.

Fake Lost Mary Hologram Sticker

A real Lost Mary vape has a complex holographic sticker with a scratch-off code. Note that the scratch-off portion of the sticker partially covers the QR code.

  • How to spot a fake Elf Bar: Most Elf Bar devices have very complicated anti-counterfeiting stickers. These stickers have perforations, which helps to ensure that they’ll tear if anyone attempts to remove them. The printing on the sticker is extremely small and difficult to duplicate. Finally, you should see “Elf Bar” appear when placing the sticker under fluorescent light. If you scan the QR code on an Elf Bar, it should only take you to elfbar.com. Look out for domain names that look similar but have one letter or number changed.
  • How to spot a fake Lost Mary: Lost Mary devices have anti-counterfeiting stickers similar to those on Elf Bar/EB Design devices. The device’s authentication code is at the bottom of the sticker, and you have to scratch a coating off of the sticker to see the code. If you scan the QR code on a Lost Mary, it should only take you to lost-mary.com.

Authenticity Is Everything in Vaping

Reading this article, we’ve given you the tools that you need in order to ensure that you never end up buying a fake vape. You’ve learned all of the tricks that the makers of fake vapes use to dupe consumers into buying fake products, and you’ve also learned what some of the most popular manufacturers in the vaping industry are doing to stop the makers of counterfeit devices from gaining the upper hand.

So, how can you make sure that you’re always getting an authentic product when you buy a vape? We’ll leave you with some final tips.

  • Always check the authenticity code every time you buy a vape. If you use the QR code, check the domain name of the website that you’re visiting because fake authenticity checkers have become extremely common. The most reliable way to check a device’s code is by visiting the manufacturer’s website manually and typing in the code yourself.
  • When you buy a vape, check the packaging carefully for blurry printing, spelling errors, spacing anomalies and unusual font choices. English is not the primary language of most of the people who produce fake vapes, so it’s very common for fake vapes to have small grammatical errors on their boxes.
  • Always buy vapes from a reliable vape shop and avoid retailers that don’t specialize in vaping products. Reports from consumers have suggested that most fake vapes end up in places like gas stations and convenience stores.
  • Be vary wary if the seller of a disposable vape asks you to test the device in the store and insists on throwing the box away for you. A fake vape can easily be packaged in an authentic box, and that makes the scam even more difficult to detect. There is no reason why you can’t take the box home and dispose of it yourself.