Britain’s best-selling vape company Elf Bar has admitted to “inadvertently” breaking the law by selling products 50% over the legal limit for nicotine.
An investigation by the MailOnline found that the Chinese vaping giant’s ‘600’ line of e-cigarettes exceeded the legal limit for nicotine e-liquid.
Elf Bar has “wholeheartedly apologised” after independent lab tests, carried out by the Mail, found the firm had broken the law.
The amount of nicotine liquid in a vape is legally limited in the UK to 2ml, of which the maximum nicotine strength should be 2%. Trading Standards warned this strict 2ml limit must not be exceeded without exception.
But tests commissioned by the Mail on three flavours of the Elf Bar 600s, bought at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons branches in London, Derby and Sheffield, found they contained between 3ml and 3.2ml of nicotine levels. Two other major vape brands tested at the same time were found to have legal levels.
Tesco removed some Elf Bar 600s from its stores while Morrisons launched a probe into the product, after the Mail shared its investigation results.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: “We are taking this very seriously and confirm we’re working closely with Elf Bar and Trading Standards to investigate this further.”
Tesco said in a statement: “We have temporarily removed one ELF BAR vape line from sale as a precautionary measure, whilst the manufacturer urgently investigates these claims.”
‘Highly regrettable situation’
The paper alerted the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to the findings. Elf Bar initially cast doubt on the Mail’s test process and suggested the products may have been fakes.
But a spokesman later confirmed: “We found out that some batches of the Elf Bar product have been overfilled in the UK. It appears that e-liquid tank sizes, which are standard in other markets (such as the US), have been inadvertently fitted to some of our UK products. We wholeheartedly apologise for the inconvenience this has caused.”
It insisted the “highly regrettable situation” did not compromise the product’s safety and it would alert retailers and review its production process.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Local enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing these regulations and taking action against non-compliant products including products that do not comply with the 2ml limits.”
Elf Bar sells 2.5 million disposable vapes in the UK every week and they are used by tens of thousands of children due to its bright packaging and sweet flavours including cola and cotton candy ice.
Experts have described the findings as “deeply disturbing” and warned of a risk to young people illegally using the vapes.
More than half of the 11 to 17-year-olds, around 100,000 young people, who admitted trying vaping said they used an Elf Bar, anti-smoking group Ash found last year.
Mark Oates, director of consumer advocacy group We Vape, told the Mail that the findings are “deeply worrying” and “anyone supplying vapes in the UK market should be following the legislation.”
He added: “It is incredibly frustrating when major players in this sector appear to behave in a way that damages the reputation of something as beneficial as vaping and we expect the matter to be fully investigated by the MHRA.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Bush, professor of paediatrics at Imperial College London, told the Mail the findings were “absolutely shocking”, stating: “This is incredibly worrying. It is terrible people don’t know what they are taking. There needs to be urgent action taken against these vapes.”
Vape manufacturers must register details of new products with the MHRA before they can be sold in the UK. But this is a self-certification and the MHRA does not carry out any tests on the product during this registration.
Dan Marchant, Managing Director at Vape Club, the UK’s largest vaping retailer, said there needs to be tighter restrictions on underage children buying these products.
He said: “The flippant answer is to stop selling them to kids. Employ a challenge 25 policy and be extremely strict. Although we know it is not an issue with a large proportion of convenience retailers, the statistics do show that the majority of underage sales are happening on the high street.
“Really we need far more help and engagement from the government to help keep these products out of children’s hands, but still, maintain the enormous public health benefits they bring. We also need to increase the fines for selling vape products to minors from a maximum of £2500 to a minimum of £10,000.
“There needs to be a real deterrent that actually encourages the less scrupulous retailers to not risk selling to children.”