UAE: Fake e-cigarettes, vaping devices could pose serious health risks

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Dubai - Counterfeit e-juice may cause an overall feeling of uneasiness, a scratchy throat and phlegm collection in the lungs.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Sat 24 Jul 2021, 2:41 PM

Last updated: Sat 24 Jul 2021, 5:39 PM

Vape use has skyrocketed in recent years, as thousands of cigarette smokers are now moving to what they believe is a ‘less harmful’ alternative. However, with the growing vaping industry comes a surge in counterfeits that could pose serious health risks, top retailers and experts have warned.

The sale of e-cigarettes, vaping devices and e-liquids has been legal in the UAE since April 2019, with strict regulations laid down by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).

Two years later, even though healthcare workers have strongly warned against the use of e-cigarettes, the market has shown signs of rapid expansion.

ALSO READ: Vapes should never be sold to teens, UAE experts warn

“Vaping hasn’t been around long enough for us to know how it affects the body over time. However, it is known to have caused serious lung damage in people who vape, including some deaths,” said Dr Abdal Karim Nasaar, a pulmonologist at Burjeel Speciality Hospital, Sharjah.

Yet, recent statistics have revealed that an estimated 64 million people are expected to switch from traditional cigarettes to alternative nicotine delivery devices over the next three years, boosting the global industry by an estimated US$53.4 billion by 2024.

Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach almost 55 million by the end of 2021. In the UAE, retail outlets such as My Vapery will have opened 14 stores across the country in two years.

Instead of placing blanket bans on the popular product, authorised retailers — such as MyVapery and Vape Man — have said they want to work with government entities to regulate the trade.

“As retailers, we must all place a bigger emphasis on supporting Esma and the police in their efforts to stop the random circulation of counterfeit and unregulated vaping products which can pose health threats,” said MyVapery’s marketing manager Atif Amin.

Vapers have to be wary of fakes, particularly counterfeit juices.

Hisham Al Shabib, CEO of the Bahrain-based Sams Vape, explained: “The trend of selling counterfeit devices to users has died down. It is getting cheap to manufacture them. In 2012- 2013, vaping products were costly. A device would cost more than US$300. However, since they are so widely manufactured now, the products have become affordable for everyone.”

The sale of fake e-liquids or vape juice is where the problem lies, said Al Shabib. “All e-liquids have a secret recipe, and if they are moving popularly in the market, it will be targeted by counterfeiters. They manufacture them by guessing the flavour.”

The components of e-liquids are usually 50 per cent vegetable glycerine, 50 per cent propylene glycol, fruit or dessert flavours, cooling agents, and nicotine, he said.

Many brands also sell nicotine-free e-juice. Quality brands sell e-liquids for anything between Dh50 and Dh55.

Illegally manufactured e-liquid clones pose health hazards. “You can tell the difference when you vape fake e-juice. You end up with a scratchy throat, phlegm collection in the lungs, and an overall feeling of uneasiness. Vapes are not meant to make you feel that way,” said Amin.

Vaping enthusiast LM (name withheld upon request), a Russian expat, said: “I used to buy e-liquids from these electronic shops in Dragon Mart. They took a toll on my lungs, and I could barely breathe because I always had a stuffy nose and throat. However, once I began vaping certified e-juices, my health improved.”

E-cigarette liquids have to be manufactured in ISO certified laboratories.

“Each bottle of e-liquids has serial numbers, which users can cross-check on the manufacturers and retailers websites. Counterfeiters cannot duplicate these serial numbers,” explained Amin and Al Shabib.

Industry experts hope the World Vape Show — scheduled to take place at Dubai’s World Trade Centre on September 19-21 — will allow them to discuss and build on the precautions they take to check the authenticity and safety of all products that are entering the market.

Instead of placing blanket bans on the popular product, authorised retailers, such as MyVapery and Vape Man, have said they want to work with government entities to regulate the trade.

Jake Nixon, event director of the World Vape Show, hopes the expo will help the industry self-regulate and spotlight vaping as a less harmful alternative to tobacco smoking.

“This is the first time we will be hosting the event in UAE,” said Nixon. “The show will connect manufacturers, retailers and vape enthusiasts from around the world. While the event serves commercial aspects, the event also aims to be an educational platform.”

Nixon said a total of 250 exhibitors had confirmed participation for the event from all over the world. “The combined exhibition and conference will showcase new vaping technology and the range of regulated products now meeting the demand for safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes.”

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