Remember street vendors in major cities claiming to have genuine Ray Ban sunglasses, Louis Vuitton and Coach handbags, or Rolex watches? If not in real life, you have almost certainly at least seen them in film and television. Art imitating life. Counterfeiting is far from a new practice in free market capitalism; the con artist is a profession as old as the market itself. For every product with enough luxury appeal, or high enough profit margin, there will always be companies looking to take a cut. No industry is safe from imposters.
The vape industry has risen steadily over the last 5 years, after branching off of the initial e-cig market of the early and mid-2000s. Myriad factors account for this rise. Between increased anti-smoking legislation and celebrity vape endorsement, the market went from a niche demographic of folks looking to quit smoking cigarettes to a widespread subculture, encompassing vape cloud competitions and even a (worrisome) teen trend. It should come as no surprise, then, that for as many companies making high quality and high end vaporizers, there are loose copycats and cheap knock offs available posing as their legitimate competitors, hoping you – the consumer – will not notice.
Some of the signs of a lesser brand, or knock off, vape are obvious. Companies will offer their products at a substantially lower price point than their legitimate competitors. Finding a vape available from the manufacturer’s website and direct e-commerce channels guarantee consumers are buying the exact product made and offered by the company. Products listed at lower prices through discount sales channels and sites are those of which to be wary.
Other indicators of a fake vape are not so obvious. The clones are cleverly packaged, almost identical to the major brands. Something small, like a typo on the packaging, is the only distinguishing difference between the real and the fake vape. Companies overseas are the most notorious offenders. Low quality vape manufacturers in Shenzhen, China, for example, can mass produce and sell their products online around the globe, and, if packaged correctly, countless consumers are duped into thinking they got a deal on a great product. Legal precedent exists for companies looking to counter the efforts of their copycats, but the market still has a long way to go before regulation and legislation catch up to mass manufacturing and sale.
This is dangerous for more than just your wallet. Manufacturers overseas who produce these fake vapes are not beholden to the same rigorous materials and testing standards. Counterfeit vape batteries are not made with the same quality lithium ion, steel, or plastics. Companies making vapes of quality standards are required to be RoHS (restrictive of hazardous substances) compliant, and require a PMTA (pre-market tobacco application) to be accepted for market. Ultimately, however, counterfeiters can skirt a number of these requirements or can otherwise afford to produce and market their products just the same as the companies they copy. The onus, currently, is still on the consumer to determine the legitimacy of the products we buy. Check if your product has a unique ID code, only buy from authorized vendors and direct from the e-commerce channels of the manufacturers themselves, and always do your due diligence in researching the names and places of origin of your vape product suppliers.