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08th Feb 2023

Elf Bar vapes removed from UK supermarket shelves after being 50% over legal nicotine limit

Charlie Herbert

Elf Bar vapes

Elf Bar has ‘wholeheartedly apologised’

Elf Bar vapes have been taken off shelves in supermarkets across the UK after the company admitted the products contained illegal levels of nicotine.

One line of the disposable vape pens had been found to be at least 50 per cent over the UK’s legal nicotine limit.

Lab tests carried out as part of an investigation by the Mail found that the Chinese company’s ‘600’ line of vapes were at least 50 per cent over the legal limit for nicotine e-liquid.

The current legal nicotine limit stands at 2ml, or two per cent in strength, yet a batch of the models was found to contain between 3ml and 3.2ml of liquid nicotine.

Elf Bar has “wholeheartedly apologised” after carrying out its own tests on the products.

A spokesman said: “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.”

There are concerns about the number of children who are vaping, with products such as Elf Bars marketed in bright colours and a wide array of flavours (Elf Bar)

The likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons had been stocking the above-limit products.

Vaping products containing nicotine are regulated under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations act.

Whilst vaping products are undeniably far less harmful for people’s health than smoking, the long-term risks of vaping are not yet clear. The NHS does suggest e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarette smoking, but there are still risk factors associated with it.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month revealed that the proportion of traditional smokers in the UK fell to the lowest on record last year, partly due to the increase in vaping.

The ONS said that vaping devices such as e-cigarettes have played a “major role” in reducing the prevalence of smoking across the UK.

Dan Marchant, Director of the UK’s largest vaping retailer, Vape Club and founding member of UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) said: “Disposable vapes – including Elf Bars – are designed for adults looking to quit smoking.

“According to Public Health England, vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and the NHS is even taking steps to allow smokers to get e-cigarettes on prescription – because they’re so helpful for quitters.

“It’s actually a misconception that vaping is turning non-smokers and non-vapers into vapers. According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the proportion of never-smokers who are current e-cigarette users in 2021 was less than 1% (0.7%).”

There are concerns around the number of children who are vaping, with products such as Elf Bars marketed in bright colours and a wide array of flavours (iStock)

But he said that more needs to be done in order to stamp out the rise in the number of children vaping.

Products such as Elf Bars have soared in popularity over the past year, and some believe the colourful packaging and wide array of flavours makes these products particularly attractive to teenagers.

In December, Waitrose announced they would no longer be selling disposable vapes, citing concerns over the products’ impact on “health of young people.”

Marchant called for places selling vapes to employ a Challenge 25 policy and for the fines for selling vape products to minors to be raised from a maximum of £2500 to a minimum of £10,000.

“They’re [vapes] absolutely designed for adult use – and the UK has very strict advertising rules,” he said.

“So products can’t be marketed to children and non-smokers, and must not ‘glamourise’ the products. Because of the nicotine content, vaping often gets lumped in with the tactics of the tobacco industry.

“This is completely false and takes away from some of the public health benefits these products create”.

When asked what should retailers need to do to tighten 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. If a retailer is aware of another business that is flouting the law, please pass the information on to your local Trading Standards officers who can then investigate.

“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.

“The vaping industry has been calling for a registration or licencing scheme for some time now. The revenue this generates can then be used to fund a mandatory national test purchasing scheme, where Trading Standards will coordinate a ‘secret shopper’ style test on all retailers of vape products (and this could really apply to other age-restricted products too).

“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.”