Counterfeiting & Seizures

Beware counterfeit e-cigarettes!

The trend is now shifting from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes. Counterfeiters have long been targeting e-cigarettes. Sometimes with disastrous results for consumers and manufacturers. How can they protect themselves?

E-cigarettes on the rise – and with them, dangerous fakes

Fake e-cigarettes carry enormous health and safety risks.
The trade in electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, is booming: According to the Federal Trade Commission, sales revenue in 2014 for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers was roughly 3.4 billion US dollars, and rising.

Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, making them a “healthier” way of consuming nicotine. We are in no position to judge whether or not that is true. Either way, counterfeit e-cigarettes and fake accessories – such as batteries, atomisers and e-liquids – do pose an acute risk.

E-cigarettes are a very recent trend that is growing fast. As a result, there are no binding industry-specific or statutory regulations, which guarantee the quality of the product and consumer safety. And then there’s the fact it’s a global trend. Many e-cigarette smokers, also known as “vapers”, order online from abroad to find the best possible price. This makes things easier for counterfeiters, since international delivery routes are often hard to trace in globalised trade.

What are the risks posed by counterfeit e-cigarettes?

How can brand manufacturers and consumers protect themselves?


Protecting against fake e-cigarettes – what can brand owners do?

With counterfeit e-cigarettes, it is impossible to guarantee that they contain only approved substances and components. Counterfeit e-liquids, which are atomised in e-cigarettes, can contain toxic chemicals. E-cigarette batteries present the most serious danger, however. They can catch fire or even explode as a result of overheating or a short circuit. Not only can this happen when they aren’t in use or when they’re charging, but even when consumers are smoking them. Plenty of e-cigarette smokers have been the victim of poor-quality counterfeits, as the article “E-cigarette explosions: an in-depth investigation” clearly shows. Victims often suffer severe burns and faulty e-cigarette batteries can also cause fires.


What can brand manufacturers of e-cigarettes and accessories do to protect their products – and customers – from counterfeiters?

  • Raise customer awareness: Customers must be made aware of the acute health and safety risks posed by counterfeit e-cigarettes. A communication strategy needs to be developed.
  • Provide a list of authorised retailers: Customer must know where they can buy original e-cigarettes with confidence.
  • Make original e-cigarettes identifiable: Security markings on original e-cigarettes indicate the product is authentic. Physical security features in particular are ideal for this as they cannot easily be copied.
  • Get in touch with customers: Customers should be able to contact the manufacturer directly with questions and report any suspicious products, which may be counterfeits.

Increasing numbers of brand manufacturers of e-cigarettes are using security labels to mark their originals. Each e-cigarette is given a unique product identity and is easy to distinguish from fakes. This allows both retailers and consumers to check whether what they have is an original product or potentially a counterfeit product.

In future, it is hoped that appropriate statutory regulations will be drawn up to bring the current risks from fake e-cigarettes under control. Security markings offer proof of authenticity, helping retailers and consumers to distinguish original products from counterfeits.


Interesting links on this subject

Federal Trade Commission Smokeless Tobacco Report for 2014


Marlene Ende, International Product & Market Manager

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