The recent outbreak of lung disease tied to black market THC containing e-liquids in the US has certainly sparked a debate about regulations on the e-cig market. And on a more personal level, it has made quite a few of us wonder about the quality of the e-liquids we purchase.
There are many dangers that could come from purchasing counterfeit e-liquids — and they may go well beyond leaving one with a bad taste or gunking up vape gear.
While most e-liquids are made using the same base ingredients, the differences lie in how these ingredients are sourced, how and where the e-liquid is manufactured and how it is stored. The conditions in which e-liquids are produced, how they are blended, bottled and tested after production are especially important. In some countries, manufacturers who produce e-liquid must undergo special tests, the results of which are then submitted to the responsible authorities (in the UK, for instance, this authority is Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). Naturally, this type of verification involves additional costs and would not be an investment an illicit factory would be willing to make.
With that, it may not be that easy to tell counterfeit e-liquids from authentic ones. But there are some things that may be worth looking into:
Packaging and label
- Check the packaging of your e-juice for all the necessary information including nicotine content, PG/VG ratio, manufacturing details and so on.
- Most countries require nicotine-containing e-liquids to have clearly displayed health warnings. And you should see something like “this product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance” or “this product is not recommended for use by minors” and so on.
- If the e-liquid was manufactured in Europe, it should have a code known as EC-ID: it should be printed on the label or you should be able to ask your e-liquid supplier about it.
- Does the bottle of e-juice have a UPC code (barcode)? Then you should be able to run it through a database on one of the websites like barcode lookup to check if it matches the e-liquid you have purchased.
- Certifications: most brands would not skip an opportunity to show these off on their labels.
- If the packaging looks dodgy ( jumbled layout, faded colors, peeling label, etc.), you are probably not looking at the best quality vape juice.
Another indication of bad quality vape juice that would be easy to notice right away is the smell. If you have purchased your regular flavor from a different supplier and notice that the smell is a bit off, this is definitely causing concern.
While this may be quite a superficial way to evaluate vape juice, some visual cues can be quite helpful. Your e-liquid should be homogenous and not cloudy.
While taste should be a good indicator of whether you are vaping low quality or high-quality e-liquid, it may not always be so easy to tell the difference. If you are used to buying select flavors from one supplier then you be able to easily tell that something is off when you buy your regular e-liquid and it does not taste the same. If you buy different e-juices, however, it may be more difficult to tell that something is off. Some vapers have noticed that low-quality e-liquids may have a tinge of “medicinal” taste. So, if you feel like you are vaping something that tastes like cough syrup, it could be a reason to doubt its authenticity. Complex flavors are also more difficult to imitate than simple ones: if you are vaping bad quality “pumpkin spice latte with vanilla foam”, you would probably taste the lack of nuance in a badly manufactured vape juice.
What would be the telltale signs of fake or low-quality vape juice in your country?