The popularity of vaping has surged in recent years, with a significant number of cigarette smokers transitioning to what they perceive as a “safer” alternative. However, as the vaping industry expands, a concerning rise in counterfeit products threatens public health. Renowned retailers and experts are sounding the alarm about the potential dangers posed by fake e-cigarettes and vaping devices.
Since April 2019, the sale of e-cigarettes, vaping devices, and e-liquids has been permitted in the UAE under strict regulations outlined by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).
Despite strong warnings from healthcare professionals against e-cigarette usage, the market has witnessed rapid growth over the past two years.
Dr. Abdal Karim Nasaar, a pulmonologist at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, Sharjah, emphasized, “The long-term effects of vaping remain unknown, but cases of serious lung damage and even deaths have been attributed to vaping.”
Yet, recent statistics predict that approximately 64 million individuals will transition from conventional cigarettes to alternative nicotine delivery methods within the next three years. This shift is projected to boost the global vaping industry by an estimated $53.4 billion by 2024.
Euromonitor forecasts that the number of adult vapers will reach nearly 55 million by the close of 2021. Within the UAE, My Vapery, a prominent retail outlet, will have established 14 stores across the nation within two years.
Rather than imposing blanket bans on these products, authorized retailers such as MyVapery and Vape Man express their intent to collaborate with governmental bodies to ensure industry regulation.
MyVapery’s Marketing Manager, Atif Amin, asserted, “Retailers must join forces with Esma and law enforcement to curtail the circulation of counterfeit and unregulated vaping products, which pose serious health risks.”
Consumers are advised to exercise caution, particularly with counterfeit e-liquids.
Hisham Al Shabib, CEO of Bahrain-based Sams Vape, revealed, “The trend of selling counterfeit devices has declined due to reduced manufacturing costs. In the past, vaping products were expensive, with devices costing over $300. However, widespread manufacturing has made these products affordable for everyone.”
The sale of fake e-liquids raises significant concerns. Al Shabib clarified, “Counterfeiters target popular e-liquids, attempting to replicate their unique recipes. This often involves guesswork to mimic the flavors.”
E-liquids typically consist of 50% vegetable glycerine, 50% propylene glycol, fruit or dessert flavors, cooling agents, and nicotine, according to Al Shabib.
Many brands also offer nicotine-free e-juices, with quality e-liquids priced between Dh50 and Dh55.
Illegally produced e-liquid clones pose health hazards. “Distinguishing fake e-juices becomes apparent when users experience a scratchy throat, accumulation of phlegm in the lungs, and overall discomfort. Legitimate vapes should not induce such sensations,” Amin cautioned.
Vaping enthusiast LM (name withheld upon request), a Russian expatriate, shared, “I used to purchase e-liquids from electronic shops in Dragon Mart. However, they adversely affected my lungs, causing breathing difficulties and congestion. Switching to certified e-juices notably improved my health.”
Notably, e-cigarette liquids must be manufactured in ISO-certified laboratories.
Amin and Al Shabib emphasized that each e-liquid bottle features unique serial numbers, which users can cross-verify on manufacturers’ and retailers’ websites. Counterfeiters cannot replicate these serial numbers.
Industry experts anticipate that the upcoming World Vape Show, scheduled at Dubai’s World Trade Centre from September 19-21, will provide an opportunity to discuss and enhance measures to ensure the authenticity and safety of products entering the market.
Authorized retailers, including MyVapery and Vape Man, prefer collaborative efforts with governmental bodies to regulate the industry rather than implementing sweeping bans.
Jake Nixon, Event Director of the World Vape Show, anticipates that the expo will facilitate industry self-regulation and underscore vaping as a comparatively safer alternative to tobacco smoking.
“This marks our inaugural event in the UAE,” Nixon revealed. “The show will unite manufacturers, retailers, and vape enthusiasts globally. Beyond commercial aspects, the event aims to foster education.”
Nixon disclosed that the event has garnered participation from 250 exhibitors worldwide. “The combined exhibition and conference will showcase cutting-edge vaping technology and a range of regulated products designed to meet the demand for safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes.”