In your town, there could be dozens or even hundreds of fake vapes on sale right now. Although that statement may sound alarmist, the proliferation of counterfeit vapes in the UK is a major issue that’s only getting worse.

Fake vapes are more common than you think.

How many fake vapes are sold in the UK? In 2022, the famous Elf Bar brand provided a report to the press about an operation that had taken place over the previous year with the goal of finding the makers of fake Elf Bars in China and seizing their illegitimate products. This operation resulted in the confiscation of more than 2 million fake Elf Bars – and Elf Bar is just one popular vape brand out of many.

Why are fake vapes so common? They’re common because they sell in extremely high volumes, so they’re quite profitable to make. Fake vapes are also fairly easy to produce because the counterfeiters and the legitimate factories are all based in the same city – Shenzhen, China – and the same raw components are available to everyone.

These images show workers at a facility producing fake Elf Bars. The workers are puffing on the devices to test them before packaging them for shipping.

These images show workers at a facility producing fake Elf Bars. The workers are puffing on the devices to test them before packaging them for shipping. Daily Mail.

Consumers generally don’t notice fake vapes.

Also, the makers of fake vapes know they probably won’t get caught because consumers only use the devices for a few days before disposing of them. People are unlikely to notice counterfeit vapes unless their experiences with the devices are absolutely horrible. Everyone assumes that a Louis Vuitton handbag is fake until proven otherwise, but most people don’t look at vapes with the same critical eye.

Well, it’s time to change that. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly why fake vapes are such a major problem in the UK and why you should be concerned about them. You’re here for answers, though, so let’s jump right in and talk about how to identify these devices before you buy them.

Here’s how to spot and avoid fake vapes.

Most Fake Vapes Are Sold by Corner Shops

The majority of fake vapes don’t end up in specialist vape shops. Instead, most of them are on the shelves at corner shops and other retailers that don’t normally sell vape gear. Those retailers get their fake vapes from the same cut-rate distributors that provide their mobile phone chargers, memory cards, USB cables, batteries and other electronic items – many of which are probably fake as well.

When you buy a cheap USB cable for 99p, you know what you’re getting – but you shouldn’t take the same risk with your vapes.

If you want to avoid fake vapes, the best thing that you can do is buy the devices only from dedicated vape shops that obtain the products only from the original manufacturers and authorised distributors. That’s half the battle because fake devices rarely end up in vape shops. It can also be worthwhile to look for vape shops that belong to major trade organisations such as UKVIA.

Fake Vapes Won’t Pass the Manufacturers’ Authenticity Checks

When you buy a vape kit or disposable vape, do you usually ignore the authentication code on the box? It’s time to stop doing that because that code is your best weapon for identifying and avoiding fake vapes.

If a device's code doesn't pass the authenticity check, you should assume it's fake. Reddit.

If a device’s code doesn’t pass the authenticity check, you should assume it’s fake. Reddit.

For the code to actually work, though, you need to use it properly. Don’t ever use the QR code to visit a manufacturer’s website because anyone can create a code that leads to a fake site. The makers of fake vapes use all sorts of tricks for this.

The official website for the Lost Mary brand, for instance, is A manufacturer could build a site that looks the same but has a different URL such as or You may not notice the difference on your phone’s small screen, and the “authenticity checker” on the fake website will happily proclaim any code to be completely legitimate.

QR codes are actively exploited by the makers of fake vapes, so always check a device’s authenticity by typing the URL of the manufacturer’s website manually.

If the authenticity checker says that the code isn’t valid or has been used before, you should assume that the device is fake and ask the seller to take it back. Since the code will be on the outside of the box, you can check it before opening and using the device.

Fake Vapes Often Have Issues with Fit and Finish

An image showing the terrible conditions in a facility manufacturing fake Elf Bars.

An image showing the terrible conditions in a facility manufacturing fake Elf Bars. Daily Mail.

One important thing to remember about fake vapes is that they’ll often have cosmetic issues that result in them not quite looking the same as authentic devices. These issues could be minor things like chipped paint or washed-out colours, or they could be major problems like misaligned parts.

We discussed this issue in a recent article about fake Crystal Bar vapes. The Crystal Bar consists of an inner core and an outer translucent shell. In some counterfeit versions of this device, the two components don’t align properly, and that results in condensation appearing on the inside of the outer shell. If your device has a serious misalignment of components like that, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a fake.

Fake Vapes Often Have Noticeable Issues with Their Packaging

Disposable vapes should typically have excellent packaging. The boxes should be solid and have sharp corners, and the colours and text should be vivid and easily read. If you see a disposable vape in a box that’s mushy or has washed-out colours, it’s possible that the device is fake.

You should also examine the print quality on the box carefully if you’re interested in buying a disposable vape and are concerned that it might be fake. The makers of fake vapes don’t have the original art assets used to create the official packaging. They’ll often resort to scanning and printing copies of the original packaging instead, but the copy will never look the same as the original.

Fake Vapes Rarely Taste Right

Bags of fake and illegal vapes seized in 2023 in Northamptonshire.

Bags of fake and illegal vapes seized in 2023 in Northamptonshire. BBC.

If you’ve already purchased a disposable vape and have begun using it, you should pay attention to the way the device tastes – especially if it’s a brand and flavour that you usually buy. Although the makers of fake vapes may occasionally have access to certain components used in the legitimate devices, they won’t be able to use the same e-liquids because legitimate vape manufacturers often make their own e-liquids in house instead of outsourcing them. The makers of fake vapes have no choice but to try to approximate the original flavours, and they won’t always get it right. If the flavour that you usually buy suddenly tastes different, you should probably stop using that device.

Are Bloody Mary Vapes Fake? What About Found Mary?

It’s worthwhile to address the brands produced by Heaven Gifts – the company behind Elf Bar and Lost Mary – because these are the most popular brands of disposable vapes in the UK at the moment. Because they’re so popular, they’re also the most heavily counterfeited brands. To make matters worse, some of these brands are available under different names in different regions. Here’s what you need to know about Elf Bar and Lost Mary vapes.

  • Elf Bar: The Elf Bar brand is sold under the name “Elf Bar” in the United Kingdom but not in the United States due to a trademark dispute. If you see an Elf Bar-type vape with the brand “EB Create” or “EB Design,” it may not be a fake vape because both of those brand names have been used in the United States. However, it isn’t produced for the UK market and isn’t legal for sale here.
  • Lost Mary: At the time of writing, the Lost Mary brand has yet to undergo a name change. Bloody Mary and Found Mary are not produced by Heaven Gifts and apparently have no official website. It’s obvious that they’re meant to look like Lost Mary vapes, but it’s probably more accurate to call them knockoffs or clones than outright fakes. Either way, it would be wise to avoid these devices because their source is unknown. Also, neither brand is licenced for sale in the UK.
  • Funky Lands: The Funky Lands brand – formerly known as Funky Republic before a name change – is a third brand produced by Heaven Gifts. At the time of writing, there are no Funky Lands vapes that are compliant with the Tobacco Products Directive, and no vapes from this brand have been approved for sale in the UK.

Why Is It So Important to Avoid Fake Vapes?

Now that you have more information about how to spot and avoid fake vapes, it’s time to address a final question: Why should you care? Fake vapes aren’t just bad because they steal revenue from legitimate brands, although that’s certainly the case. Mainly, though, you should avoid fake vapes because they’re potentially dangerous for you and will certainly result in a sub-par experience. Here are just a few of the reasons why buying a fake vape is a very bad idea.

  • Any vape that isn’t listed on the MHRA website – Found Mary and Bloody Mary are two examples – has not undergone the required emissions testing and isn’t approved for sale in the UK. In this case, there is no regulatory oversight assuring that the vape is safe to use.
  • A fake vape could contain a higher nicotine strength than what’s allowed in the UK, making it illegal to sell. Alternatively, it could contain no nicotine at all. Either way, using the device may result in a drastic change to your nicotine intake and could make you feel ill.
  • A fake vape may be produced in filthy conditions and could have a dangerous microbial contamination.
  • A fake vape could contain a battery that was pulled from a used vaping device or rejected by the original manufacturer. The battery could be unsafe to use.
  • A fake vape could contain less than the amount of e-liquid stated on the package and may not last anywhere near as long as advertised.
  • A fake vape could contain unsafe additives or have high levels of heavy metals.
  • If a fake vape catches fire due to a bad battery or makes you ill due to a microbial contamination, it’ll be hard to obtain legal redress since there’s no way to know the device’s true origin.
  • Fake vapes are not produced under safe conditions, and you can be certain that the workers who produce those devices aren’t paid fair wages.

Always Examine Vapes with a Critical Eye

Reading this article, you’ve learned what you can do to identify fake vapes and why it’s so important to avoid counterfeit devices. Making sure that you always examine vapes with a critical eye before buying them is really half the battle. The makers of fake devices often get away with their misdeeds because most people don’t know how common counterfeit vapes are and don’t examine products closely before buying them. Hopefully, you’ll never make that mistake again. In the meantime, check out our list of the best vapes in the UK and get your next device from a trusted source.

Tracey Jackson

Tracey Jackson

Tracey Jackson discovered the life-changing potential of vaping after making the switch from smoking several years ago. Tracey specialises in writing expert reviews and helping others find the best vapes on the market.