Are Disposable Vapes Safe? Continued Crackdown Raises Concerns

/ 5 minute Read

Are Disposable Vapes Safe? Continued Crackdown Raises Concerns

It’s no secret that disposable vaping has become the biggest craze the industry has seen in recent years, and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. With consumer demand skyrocketing, retailers have been scrambling to keep their stock levels up to capitalise on the lucrative disposable vape market.

This sudden demand has however opened up the market to a number of unregulated products which have begun creeping into retail locations across the UK. Because of the risks these products pose, Trading Standards have been cracking down since late 2021. With news of these illicit products making headlines and the difficulty to consumers in distinguishing between them and their legal counterparts, consumers have been understandably concerned. Many are calling the devices safety into question.

Are Disposable Vapes Safe?

The answer to this question is not cut and dry. We’ve already explored the potential dangers of disposable vapes in our blog, and have examined the potential ethical crisis they present. On the whole, legitimate examples that have been approved for sale will not cause you any serious personal harm. There are however a number of issues surrounding disposable vapes that make them particularly bad for the environment, not to mention the risks posed when unregulated examples fall into the hands of consumers.

Environmental Issues

  • Disposables are made from non-biodegradable materials throughout which means once they are dropped, they will remain in the environment until they are picked back up.
  • Their internal parts have come into contact with nicotine which under most UK safe disposal regulations means they cannot be recycled. The fact they are sold as one sealed unit prevents any non-contaminated parts from being separately recycled.
  • The lithium ion batteries within the devices are cheaply made and could pose a risk of pollution or even explosion if exposed to extreme conditions – such as when left in an outside bin or simply thrown on the ground.
  • The extreme popularity of the devices and the attitudes younger demographics who tend to buy them has led to tens of thousands of disposable vapes being discarded in outdoor municipal bins and worse still dropped as litter following nights-out. This compounds the issues above and presents a potential ethical crisis surrounding the products.

Disposable Vapes and Your Health

It is widely understood that vaping is less harmful than smoking, but not without some risk, as is expected when we inhale anything other than the air we are intended to. With that said however there has often been debate surrounding the volume of nicotine offered by vapes when compared to cigarettes.

When we consider the increased frequency one might vape due to it being more widely accepted indoors and perceived as “healthier”, depending on the chosen device and e-liquid, the person may actually end up ingesting far more nicotine than they used to when they smoked, effectively doubling-down on their addiction despite reducing the number of toxins delivered as by-products.

Disposables exclusively use nicotine salt e-liquids, which are typically available only in the very highest nicotine strengths like 20mg. This means they are uniquely guilty of making the above hypothetical concern around over-consumption a reality. The nature of nicotine salt e-liquids, which you can learn more about here, mean their nicotine content is more rapidly absorbed, lasts longer and is very smooth compared to traditional e-liquid using freebase nicotine. Coupled with delicious flavours and uber-convenient usability disposables have raised extra concern around their ability to deepen ones nicotine addiction without even realising it.

As Cosmopolitan reports, A popular doctor on TikTok, Onkar Mudhar, has released video at the beginning of the year expressing this very concern. "Don't do it" the expert wrote in the caption, following up in the video by saying "If you use Geek or Elf bars, it's bad news."

Dr Mudhar continued: "Smoking a whole Geek or Elf bar is the equivalent of about 48 to 50 cigarettes. Both of these [bars] contain two milligrams of nicotine salt, so [the] equivalent 20 milligrams of nicotine."

When you consider the average smoker, even with a heavy habit, would typically not consume more than 20-30 cigarettes per day, a device most people use up in 2 days or less delivering the equivalent of 50 cigarettes is worth noting. Certainly, they are worth treating with caution and if you choose to use one, please ensure you are observant of your consumption rates so as to not cause yourself harm.

Trading Standards Warns About Geek Bar Pro Devices

Further to Trading Standards Raids of wholesalers warehouses in Glasgow, the battle against illegal examples of disposable vapes has continued with earnest up and down the country. While officially licensed examples can be purchased and consumed with some confidence in their quality and safety, there are a vast swathe of illegal examples being imported without undergoing the proper registration for sale.

Trading Standards officers have most recently seized hundreds of these devices in Crawley, West Sussex as recently as February 2022, highlighting that despite continued action these devices are still making it onto retail shelves and into the hands of consumers. In only two corner shops, over 140 examples of Geek Bar Pro devices were found and seized, both the Sun and West Sussex Gov Website report.

The officers received a tip-off from a local resident about the illegal devices, which are not registered for sale with the MHRA, and as a result have been subject to no verifiable safety controls, posing unknown levels of risk to consumers. Even if the devices were to be posthumously submitted for registration, this would be impossible owing to their 4.5ml e-liquid capacity and availability in strengths as high as 50mg/ml. The legal limit for both in the UK being 2ml and 20mg/ml respectively.

Peter Aston, West Sussex Trading Standards team manager said: "These products do not meet legal requirements and we are working hard to make sure retailers in West Sussex remove them from sale" Similarly, Duncan Crow, member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue also said: “Trading Standards officers are taking action to get these products off shop shelves – protecting the health and wellbeing of people in West Sussex and ensuring local retailers and wholesalers are selling only legal vaping products."

Vaping With Disposables Safely

While they are convenient and satisfying, the drawbacks of disposables both in terms of wellbeing and environment are notable, something that falls within our scope of concern as highlighted by our EDGE CSR policy, in which we voice our commitment to ethical practices and sustainability.

If you choose to use these products, please take note of the information we have shared here and in our other articles. There are officially licensed, tested and registered examples of disposables available for you to try, which pose less risk than the illegal examples like Geek Bar Pro’s which should be avoided at all costs due to their lack of credible safety information.

How to Check Your Disposable Vape is Legal

Take note of the following key facts and features, if your local retailer’s stock matches anything described in these criteria, there is a good chance it is an illegally imported example and should be avoided – you should warn your retailer too, he may be unaware that he is selling an illegal item.

  • In the UK, the legal capacity of an e-cigarette tank is 2 ml, whereas the Geek Bar Pro is more than double this size at 4.5ml.
  • The UK’s legal cap on nicotine concentration is 20mg/ml, Geek Bar pro’s have been found to contain more than double this at 50mg/ml.
  • The product should have the name and address of a UK contact if the producer is based outside of the UK, but the Geek Bar Pro did not have this information.
  • Specific Symbols and warnings we can see on many tobacco and vaping products must also be present on disposable vape packaging – something that has been noted as missing from illegal examples like the Geek Bar Pro.

    Both consumers and retailers are being urged to check whether vaping products are authorised for sale by using the MHRA website database, which you can find here:

    If you want to enjoy nic salt e-liquid without the risk of picking up an illegal and unregistered device, EDGE has a full range of smooth Nic Salt pods. Available in a range of our most popular flavours, and designed for use with the EDGE GO pod device - almost as convenient as a disposable, without the ethical dilemma of throwing away your battery every time.