Managing a database of over 750,000 branded MHRA UK ‘submitted notified’ vape products is no mean feat, particularly in the booming UK vape market where a record 4.3 million people now use vape products as an alternative to smoking (ASH Data).
Legal products are published by the MHRA daily, at VapeClick we manage the only single complete list of submitted notified products in the UK. This allows the team at VapeClick a unique insight into the market in terms of notifications and the trends in the vape space.
The recent ASH data report points to a rise in disposable e-cigarettes - up from 2.3% of vapers using these in 2021 to 15% this year, however the product trend in terms of notifications to the MHRA outstrips that percentage significantly.
2021 and this year (2022) has seen a meteoric rise in the number of ‘submitted notified’ disposable vape products (Electronic Cigarette – Disposable) all on the back of the first to market products the Elf Bar 600 and the Geek Bar who took a steal on the relatively limited competition by releasing a range of nicotine salt (Nic salts) flavours that captured the imagination and palate of the consumer. Now selling in their millions over 5,800 disposable vape products have been registered during the period 2021-2022 alone, across 15,000 brands. Take a moment to take that in, especially when you consider that over 4,300 disposable ECID’s have been registered in 2022 to date alone.
10ml e-liquid registrations plummeted in comparison with only 5,700 being registered in the same period. It is however worthy to note that additional brand / brand tagging (where a manufacturer adds a new brand to a registered product) for 10ml vape reveals a healthy increase at over 14,600.
The good news is that we are now seeing a steady rise in the other categories such as 10ml e-liquid in the last 6 months, the most notable of being a rise in open and closed POD devices and 10ml brands. This is down to the consumer realising that the cost per puff (about 1p) is not as economical as an open system where they can add their own favourite e liquid (blackcurrant e liquid and menthol e-liquid being the amongst the most popular) to their preferred device for a fraction of the cost. This trend is in line with the ASH data which showed most vapers reporting the use of refillable tank systems as their preferred method of accessing vape.
The vape market is also unfortunately awash with unregistered vape products such as 6000 puff disposables vape, and the 3500 puff disposable vape. Worryingly one brand has recently featured on national retail sales data, which is a strong indication that thousands of retailers are openly selling these illegal, untested products.
The consumer clearly wants more bang for their buck hence why the illegal larger puff devices are in high demand, the issues that fall out these illegal products are plenty, not least of all the risk to the consumer as the products have not been through the rigours of testing dictated by the UK regulations and very worryingly increased youth access. Illegal disposable vape products and youth access are intrinsically linked. If a retailer is prepared to sell an illegal disposable vape device, it makes sense they will be laissez-faire regarding who they sell it too!
Disposable vape products have demystified vaping for millions of people, which is great news, however the illegal products such as 7000 puff vape with over 20mg of nicotine and way over 2ml of e-liquid are putting the entire vape industry at risk, this dire situation will in the near future come to a head and it is probable that a knee jerk reaction of banning all disposable vape products my come into force. Enforcement officers are doing the best that they can, however the scale of the issue and the problems faced by officers are significant. Some regions in the UK that cover some of the largest rogue distributors only have 1 officer and the only route to closing these entities down is a multi-agency (Police, HMRC, Border Force, etc) approach which is expensive and needs considerable time to plan. In addition, Trading Standards (TS) officers are faced with the issue of disposal of seized products which must be covered by their own limited regional budget. Due to the complexities of disposal of lithium batteries it is not the low hanging fruit that a regional TS officer appears keen to tackle.
Hundreds of vape manufacturers and distributors are doing the right thing and registering their products correctly with the MHRA at significant cost. Many in the vape industry are becoming increasingly frustrated with the scale of the illegal market and are calling for immediate action. The goods news is that there is international and national action being conducted. The People's Republic of China now licence their manufacturers, the licencing scheme prescribes that only products that meet the legal requirement of the destination country may be exported, this coupled with enhanced action by UK Border Force may see the usual routes of these illegal devices being squeezed.
Vape Click’s prediction for the vape market 2022 and onwards is that consumers who currently use disposable vape products will transition to superior open pod devices where the technology of the devices coupled with UK made, high quality tested e-liquids will provide an enhanced vaping experience. The new ‘open pod devices’ replicate the same ‘vape and go’ experience of disposable vape devices, they are superior in quality with many using mesh coils, cheaper and have a significantly reduced impact on the environment. In short, the future of vaping in the UK is remains strong, which is good news for all, particularly the smoker, who can now move the 95% safer alternative of vaping, improving their own health and reducing the devastating impact that smoking related illnesses have on the economy of the UK.