While an illegally imported device, not held the UK’s strict quality and safety standards, poses enough risks by itself, reports both recent and from the past have also highlighted another issue – spiked vapes.
Since vaping devices became popular, before the rise of disposables, we have seen evidence of people cracking open pods and tanks to fill them with illicit substances far removed from the e-liquid they are intended to use.
Perhaps one of the most infamous of these was the “EVALI outbreak” in the USA, which sparked a major debate over the legitimacy of vape safety around the world, a debate that still rages on today. The root cause of this outbreak was eventually linked to illegally cracked vape pods being filled with THC and Vitamin E Acetate after the point of purchase.
A large part of the reasons for so much uncertainty around vaping is the general lack of education amongst the public on many aspects of the vaping world, including perceiving the risks of vaping vs smoking, how to interpret nicotine strengths, how to correctly use devices and tailor them to your needs, and perhaps most importantly, how to spot a legitimate safety-tested product from a knock-off. A fact that was highlighted in the most recent government review of vaping in the UK.
A recent article in the daily mail has highlighted the risks of vaping recklessly as a young woman was hospitalised after being given a suspected spiked vape at the Isle of White Festival. With this in mind we would like to give you all some top tips for staying safe on your vaping journey and how to spot the warning signs of a tampered device.
We’ve all been there on a night out, especially those of us who are ex-smokers, and we ask to ‘borrow’ a smoke from a stranger lighting up next to us. While there is always a risk in these situations, many of us gloss over this reality for the sake of convenience.
Vaping has now replaced cigarettes in the hands of millions across the UK, and as such a new set of risks have presented themselves. When someone offers you a vape on the street, in a smoking area or at a festival – just say no. There are simply too many risks to say yes safely, especially if you are not a regular vaper.
The device itself may be unsafe, and if it is a rebuildable kit like those used by hobbyists, then there is even greater risk that the hardware itself could cause you some harm. It is highly unlikely that the person will be able to provide you with the safety information and quality assurances needed in a brief moment of temptation while out and about.
Moreover, there is no way for you to know what e-liquid they are using. Even if it was legitimate, the nicotine strength alone could leave you feeling unwell, and there is no guarantee that you won’t get a reaction form an ingredient flagged as an allergen as you won’t have access to the ingredients list. What’s more, there’s no telling if they’ve added an illicit substance, which is the most dangerous risk of all.
If a stranger offers you a vape – just say no.
How To Tell If A Vape Has Been Tampered With
There are a few signs to look out for if you suspect the vape in your hand may have been tampered with:
- Look out for tool marks or damaged parts – this applies more to pod devices than any other, especially those which use pre-filled vape pods. These are not designed to be opened at any point, simply used up and discarded. Some people however will attempt to get into these pods, fill them with custom liquids, and then re-seal them. In these cases, there will almost always be signs of forced entry into the pod – if you notice this kind of damage, do not use it.
- Look out for oddly coloured e-liquid – this can apply to pods too, but is the best way to tell if an open-tank device may be hiding something sinister. Normal e-liquids should only ever be clear to slightly yellow/orange in colour, nothing else. THC e-liquids however tend to be much darker in colour, and if you notice this or any other odd or dark colouration to the juice you are about to vape – don’t do it.
- Take note of the branding/design – while not always the easiest thing for beginners to spot, those more familiar with the more popular types of vaping devices should note if a kit looks a little bit ‘shady’. Most illicitly sold drug-infused vapes utilise lesser-known pod or very basic clearomiser style setups which stand out from normal vape kits. If you don’t recognise the device then it’s best to avoid it altogether – and remember that this is not a perfect science as there are many counterfeits of legit brands in circulation from disreputable retailers.
How To Tell If A Vape Is Illegal
A vape being tampered with is one thing, but particularly in the case of disposable vapes there are many illegal variants being sold. While often intended for markets outside of the UK and not intending to cause harm, they breach several safe limits placed on vapes by UK law.
There are a few tell-tale signs to help you spot the legit from the illicit:
- Check the size of the device – the legal limit for e-liquid capacity in a vaping device here in the UK is 2ml. in disposable vapes this translates to circa 600 puffs. Anything claiming to deliver more, i.e. 3000 puffs, can only achieve this by containing an illegal volume of e-liquid above 2ml. This will also mean the device is much larger, often needing a bigger battery to last for this extended duration. If it’s bigger than others and claims over 600 puffs, avoid it.
- Check the nicotine level – the legal limit for nicotine content in an e-liquid in the UK is 20mg/ml or as disposables often describe it ‘2%’. In a 600 puff bar, this still equates to around 50 cigarettes worth of nicotine, masked by the smoothness achieved by using nic salt vape juice. Larger illegal variants sometimes contain 50mg/ml or 5% - if you notice anything higher than 20mg/2% then it is illegal and should not be trusted.
- Check the packaging for warnings – If buying a disposable vape, check the packaging before buying. It should contain a series of nicotine warnings, safety messages and hazard statements, as well as a full ingredients list in descending order with all allergens highlighted. There should also be a series of symbols indicating best practice and safe disposal. If any of this information is missing or seems incorrect, do not trust it and walk away.
Stick To Established Retailers
Ultimately, the best practice is to never accept a vape from a stranger. If you are a willing vaper yourself, then you should only ever buy products from a site or retailer like ours, where you can see detailed product information, safety tips, and trust that all products have been produced using quality ingredients, to rigorous safety standards – fully registered with the MHRA for your peace of mind.
Be safe out there LiQuid folk!