In Europe and the United States, fake electronic cigarettes are hitting the market
For electronic cigarette makers such as England-based Liberty Flights Ltd., counterfeiting is becoming a problem.
The Wall Street Journal reports that copycat versions of the company’s products have started appearing in several markets around the world, made with cheaper materials and sold at a much lower price. “We’ve got a brand, we’re well-known,” Matthew Moden, founder of Liberty Flights, told the newspaper. “The same problem is faced by Louis Vuitton.”
Counterfeiting and illicit trade of electronic cigarettes is on the rise across the developed world, according to law enforcement agencies and makers of the products, which also include bogus batteries that fail to recharge and liquids containing dangerously high levels of nicotine, notes the news source.
Experts say that illicit trade in e-cigarettes will increase as demand for the products grows. Global sales of the genuine products were worth $7 billion at the end of 2014, according to Euromonitor International.
Nikhil Nathwani, managing director at Philip Morris-owned Nicocigs Ltd., told the Journal that the “potential to attract illicit trade is a real concern,” even though the current market is “relatively small scale.”
In the United States and Western Europe, a black market for the components used in vaporizers is starting to develop, according to executives at e-cigarette companies. “We’ve seen an influx of cheap, generically branded liquids from China,” said Michael Clapper, international president at the Electronic Cigarettes International Group.
Stricter regulations have been suggested as a solution to the growing threat of illicit trade. European Union directives come into force in 2016 that would standardize many features of e-cigarettes sold across the region, including a lowering of the maximum nicotine content of the liquid and a reduction in the size of the cartridges. EU officials say the new regulation will improve the safety of e-cigarettes and reduce the number of low-quality or dangerous products in EU countries.
However, many e-cigarette manufacturers say that to carry out “onerous safety checks” would increase prices on their products and allow a black market to continue to flourish.
“The minute you make the real product more expensive, that’s when the illicit trade really takes hold,” Ray Story, CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, told the news source. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”