Why have UK supermarkets removed the Elf Bar 600 from the shelves?
A recent investigation by the Daily Mail and Trading Standards into disposable E-Cigarettes for sale in the UK found that a batch of Elf Bar 600s that made their way onto shelves in supermarkets Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons, contained between 3ml and 3.2ml of nicotine which is 50% over the legal limit of 2ml for the UK. This beaches UK and EU vaping regulations and laws.
Tobacco use causes around 7 million deaths per year so it is no wonder that health authorities try to educate people about the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco use, and many provide services to help smokers quit.
Before the invention of the E-Cigarette, smokers were resigned to quitting tobacco cold turkey, by using Nicotine Replacement Therapy products such as the nicotine patch and nicotine gum, or by using a medication intended to block the rewarding effects of smoking. While these products were the best on offer at the time and were effective as a form of harm reduction, the invention of the E-Cigarette changed everything.
One of the ways that the UK health authorities protect consumers of E-Cigarettes is to enforce a maximum legal limit on the amount of e-liquid in a given container – this is set at 2ml. A recent article in the Daily Mail shared the results of their investigation into disposable E-Cigarettes, finding that a number of Chinese made disposable E-Cigarettes contained well over the legal limit of 2ml.
What is an E-Cigarette?
The E-Cigarette allows smokers to get their nicotine in a similar fashion to smoking but with at least 95% of the harm removed, according to Public Health England. This means that E-Cigarette users, or ‘vapers’, get their nicotine while using an action almost the same as smoking, which may explain why studies have shown that E-Cigarettes could be up to twice as effective as forms of nicotine replacement therapy.
An E-Cigarette uses a battery to heat the e-liquid contained inside, turning it into an aerosol or ‘vapour’. This vapour is inhaled by the user, delivering nicotine to the body via the lungs. This similar action is part of the habit that smokers develop and can leave a big hole when trying to quit smoking by other methods.
What is E-liquid?
E-liquid is one of the names given to the mixture that E-Cigarettes use. Other names include ‘vape juice’ or just ‘juice’. It is made up from propylene glycol PG and vegetable glycerine VG (both of which are used in many foods and medicines and are considered safe by the FDA and WHO) and flavourings – and the all-important nicotine!
E-liquid can have different balances of VG to PG – this changes the vape experience. At SMOKO, we find customers with a smoking background like to feel a similar sensation when they vape, delivering a ‘throat hit’ that is close to that smoking sensation – for this we use a balance of 80/20 PG to VG. If you find yourself with a high VG liquid you need to ensure you are using a device powerful enough to turn the thicker mixture into a vapour.
E-liquid is available with different concentrations of nicotine, too. The maximum legal limit for retail e-liquids is a 2% nicotine strength – but you can find a range of nicotine strengths, all the way down to 0% nicotine.
What are disposable E-Cigarettes?
There is a massive range of E-Cigarette devices available, from the cigalike style that looks and feels like a cigarette, to the complex box mods which are the brick-looking things you may have seen vapers with - you’ll know them by the huge clouds of vapour!
Disposable E-Cigarettes are an all-in-one sealed unit that contains the battery and the tank for the e-liquid. They are a ‘one-and-done’ situation: when the battery or the e-liquid has run out, you throw it away. Sadly, due to the sealed nature of the unit and difficulty separating the pieces, disposable E-Cigarettes will most likely find their way into landfill instead of being recycled.
For sale in the UK, these are subject to the same rules and regulations as everyone else – so there shouldn’t be more than 2ml of e-liquid, regardless of strength, in any given disposable E-Cigarette.
What did the Daily Mail find investigating disposable E-Cigarettes?
The Daily Mail investigation bought disposable E-Cigarettes from three brands across Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons supermarkets located in London, Derby and Sheffield. While two brands contained the correct amount of e-liquid, the Elf Bar 600s were found to have between 3ml and 3.2ml. That means they were overfilled by at least 50%!
This raises questions about the quality checks in place for at least the producers of Elf Bars, if not other Chinese manufacturers as well. Tesco and Sainsburys have removed the line of Elf Bar 600s from their stores, and Morrisons are working with the manufacturer and Trading Standards to investigate the situation.
The manufacturer has apologised for this ‘inadvertent’ breach of the rules, explaining that larger tanks designed for markets outside the UK were fitted to their UK products. They insist, however, that it doesn’t impact the safety of the product.
Why is an overfilled disposable E-Cigarette tank problematic?
Putting aside the legal restriction of a maximum tank size of 2ml, why would overfilling of these devices be problematic?
Firstly, the product is not as advertised. While nicotine poisoning is hard to achieve while vaping, someone under the impression that there is 2ml in the tank of their disposable could race through the liquid and be under the impression they have consumed 2ml of 2.0% nicotine liquid when they have actually consumed over 3ml. If 2ml of 2.0% liquid is equivalent to roughly 40 cigarettes worth of nicotine, then consuming over 3ml of 2.0% liquid is equivalent to roughly 60 cigarettes worth of nicotine. While not enough to cause serious harm, it could certainly make you feel a bit ill!
Secondly; it is a sad reality that these disposable E-Cigarettes, marketed with enticing flavours, are finding their ways into the hands of youngsters. While vaping is illegal for under 18’s, a recent survey found that 7% of 11 to 17 year olds vape regularly, this has increased from 4% in 2020. Worse yet, a survey of 3000 teachers found half of them have caught a student vaping in school, and 1 in 5 teachers have found a student as young as 11 with a vape.
This indicates a problem that needs to be tackled, but coming back to our original point, young people will be more affected by nicotine due to their body size and weight. So: if a young student gets their hands on an overfilled disposable E-Cigarette, they may well suffer more than an adult who has overdone their nicotine intake.
Thirdly, still with the youth vaping, youngsters are going to experiment – it’s a part of growing up. We can educate, encourage and guide, but ultimately teens are going to push the boundaries a bit. There is something to be said for instating heavier punishments for those caught selling to under 18’s to minimise the occurrence, but in the event that a teenager gets hold of a disposable E-Cigarette, I would prefer they are limited to the 2ml legal maximum limit. This will produce effects like:
- The teen will have to break the law, as will the person selling them the disposable E-Cigarette, for the teen to vape more than 2ml. This increases the risk of getting caught, the seller being removed and punished and the teen’s parents being notified. Undesirable outcomes for all involved.
- Reducing the chance of developing a stronger addiction to nicotine. Many people try smoking but don’t go on to smoke. The chances of continuing to smoke increases the more you smoke because the presence of nicotine increases the number of receptors in the brain that nicotine acts on. While vaping doesn’t deliver nicotine as aggressively as smoking does, having an overfilled disposable E-Cigarette with an additional 50% liquid in will naturally mean more nicotine intake (an additional 20 cigarettes worth at the 2.0% strength), which means a higher chance of developing an addiction.
- Vapers who use these disposable E-Cigarettes have a skewed view of how long 2ml of e-liquid should last them. This gives them a misrepresentation of products on the UK market as they will likely compare any other vaping products to how long the disposable lasted them. This is not consumer friendly because it gives the impression of being a longer-lasting product when it actually just contains more liquid.
Why have UK supermarkets removed the Elf Bar 600 from the shelves? Conclusion
Vapers who use the Elf Bar 600s may be happy they’ve paid for a product that contains more than advertised, so essentially got a really good deal. This is one point of view, but if the manufacturers inadvertently broke this rule, are there other regulations they are inadvertently not adhering to?
Sometimes it may seen that the 2ml legal limit for e-liquid tanks just gets in the way, however it does provide some protection for the youth who manage to get their hands on disposable vapes. As we do not know the quality of ingredients used in Chinese e-liquids, it seems even more important to ensure products produced in China adhere to the rules and regulations for their products here in the UK.
At SMOKO, our e-liquids are made in the UK and tested with our devices so you know you are getting a high quality product that is in line with the high standard of quality expected by the UK medicine regulator, the MHRA. If you are a smoker looking to quit, choose SMOKO for a product you can trust!