Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes are beginning to encounter problems with counterfeit versions of their products, sold at lower prices, according to a premium article in the Wall Street Journal, summarized online by reporter Melissa Vonder Haar of CSPnet.
Matthew Moden, who founded the firm Liberty Flights, which operates out of Darwin UK, reports that his company shares this problem with fashion trendsetters like Louis Vuitton. "We've got a brand, we're well-known," boasted Moden to the Journal's reporter Peter Evans. Perhaps being counterfeited is a sign of success, a status symbol!
How do the counterfeiters get the prices down? For one thing, by sidestepping quality control. Such black market products are often characterized by inconsistent nicotine concentrations and batteries with little or no charge. The counterfeiters use the cheapest materials they can find, in order to offer rock bottom prices.
"We do see a vast number of substandard products being sold," Emma Logan told the Journal. Logan is a Director at Edinburgh's JAC Vapour Ltd.
Big Tobacco companies are even seeing counterfeit e-cig versions of their combustible cigarettes.
Nikhil Nathwani, who now manages Nicocigs, Ltd. for its Big Tobacco bosses at Phillip Morris, says the "potential to attract illicit trade is a real concern."
The problem is sufficiently serious to raise the question of how such counterfeiting should best be curbed. Regulators say, of course, that strict regulations are the answer. The EU Tobacco Products Directive, which became law just about a year ago, aims to mandate a small container size for e-liquids, and a 20mg./ml. cap on nicotine concentrations, and its proponents argue that this will control illicit versions of the products, when the directive takes effect. EU regulators contend that the TPD "will protect consumers and keep lower-quality products out of the area," reports Vonder Haar. EU Health spokesperson Enrico Brivio told the Journal that his department doesn't think "the new measures will have a significant effect on prices and there is no evidence that the provisions will contribute to increased illicit trade."
Not so, say representatives of vaping supplies manufacturers, like Ray Story, who heads the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association. "The minute you make the real product more expensive, that's when the illicit trade really takes hold," Story contends. The counterfeiting we are now seeing, he believes, is "just the tip of the iceberg."
Who is reading this developing threat accurately? Only time will tell.