It’s an inevitable phenomenon in every industry: given time, cream of the crop companies rise to the top in terms of quality and reputation — going on to be justified in charging premium prices for their products. This is true for everything from smartphones to footwear. And yet every time a star is born in the public market, several obscure operations emerge from the woodwork to make money off its brand by selling imitation products designed to be indistinguishable from the originals. My Freedom Smokes has been one of the largest vape eccomerce sites on the Web since the dawn of the vaping industry, but low prices continue to be one of our strongest points, along with careful attention to customer service.
Recently, this same fake-product phenomenon has begun to play out within the vaping industry. Top brands like SMOK, Innotech, UWell, and Aspire are finding their customer feedback boards littered with one-star product reviews, only to find that the complaints were lodged by individuals who’d bought their products off eBay.
Then there’s the bewildering world of THC vape carts and CBD oil carts. Sales of cannabis concentrates skyrocketed 49% from 2017 to 2018 showing that vaping is making serious in-roads to becoming as accepted as a delivery method as smoking itself. So, as a consumer, how do you navigate this burgeoning sector? THC cart problems and vaping-related illnesses have been reported in 49 states – many of them being linked to fake THC carts obtained on the black market. While there are a plethora of companies producing legit THC carts – it’s still a case of buyer beware.
Some vapers laugh off the emergence of a bootlegger’s market as a sign of the industry’s maturity, in that vapes now stand upon the same product pantheon as say Prada bags or iPhones. However, you can bet that legitimate vape retailers and manufacturers themselves aren’t happy about it, or its implications on their quality control costs.
In this post, we go over everything you need to know about so-called “dank” vape tanks, why they are dangerous and how you can avoid purchasing them by mistake.
How Did Counterfeit Vape Products Even Become a Thing?
The vape industry is still in its relative infancy, and as such it’s yet to be thoroughly regulated. With little regulation comes little interest from enforcement agencies, which in turn produces market penetration opportunities for bootleggers. At the moment customs agents aren’t exactly combing through pallets to find imitation Joyetech sub-ohm tanks; they’re much more interested in finding knockoff Gucci wear and MacBook Pros.
While regulation is lax at the moment, it’s worth noting that some blame belongs on the buyers’ end as well. There are three main reasons oblivious (or just plain cheap) vapers wind up creating demand for bootleggers:
Poor purchasing practices when shiftlessness meets the search for the best price possible, some vapers find themselves searching eBay or Alibaba.com for the latest and greatest vape tanks. While you can most certainly find good deals for genuine products on these sites, some sellers are just downright seedy, and you could easily wind up with a fake if you don’t absolutely know what you’re doing.
Fake THC oil cartridges are usually made by dealers who buy empty carts cheaply in bulk on these sites. They then fill them with cheap black-market THC oil. It’s cliché for sure, but the old, ‘if it seems to good to be true’ mantra applies here as much as anywhere. If you’re buying a $15 unbranded THC vape cart when it costs almost $50 in your local legal dispensary – you’re risking your health.
Peer pressure & poor finances much akin to the gaming or smartphone industry, there is tremendous social pressure among vapers to always own the latest hardware year after year. And because there’s no way to score that high-end current-gen RDA on the cheap (other than winning a promotional event of course) vapers with more humble finances sometimes find themselves knowingly shopping for imitation tanks. The logic, of course, being that the cool kids won’t get on your case if your tank is virtually indistinguishable from theirs.
Not checking the label is the vaping equivalent of Russian Roulette. Poor printing quality and spelling mistakes on the label are easy to spot and are instant red flags. Ingredients should also be fully listed. If you’re buying vape carts containing THC from a company in a legal state, it should be properly labeled with the manufacturer's information along with information about lab results and testing.
The Dangers of Black Market Vape Tanks and Carts & Why You Should Avoid Them
While fakes give you a near-perfect replica of an actual vape tank for a fraction of the going price, countless horror stories on Reddit and social media show us that that is sadly where the similarities end. Counterfeit vape hardware is notorious for causing dry hits, intermittent powering down of the device, and even explosions while dodgy cartridges and juice can have even worse consequences:
Output mismatch every vape mod comes with its own unique output specifications (i.e. wattage and voltage) and is designed to work with a specific range of tanks rated for those outputs. Conversely, counterfeit vape tanks may not carry the same ratings as their legitimate counterparts. The result is an automatic shutdown in high-quality devices packed with user safety features, and possible explosions in lower-end devices with less intelligent chipsets.
Coil resistance and quality market quality coils are usually manufactured from either stainless steel, nickel, titanium or alloys like nichrome (NiCr) and kanthal (FeCrAl). They are also precision-engineered to function within a specific threshold of resistance measured in ohms. Obviously, bootleggers greatly prioritize profit margins over user experience and have no company reputation to protect, so you can expect their coils to be made with shoddy materials and inconsistent resistance ranges. The result? The dreaded “dry-” or “burnt hit,” resulting in terrible flavor at best, and days of nursing a sore throat at worst.
Contaminants and harmful additives have been found in unofficial THC and nicotine-only cartridges, and this is likely the cause of the recent outbreak of vaping illness. Vitamin E acetate – a thickening agent that is safe to use topically and is often found in creams and lotions – has been confirmed by the CDC as the culprit in most cases of vaping deaths and was likely used as a cheap additive by unscrupulous fake-cart manufactures.
How You Can Avoid Purchasing a Fake Vape Tank
These days, it’s much easier to avoid a fake than it was just a few years ago. Due to rampant bootlegging, just about all vape manufacturers now provide scratch-off codes on their product boxes. This makes it easy for buyers to authenticate their products through the company our website and others before use. Some companies even provide QR codes among the free stickers and manuals that come inside the box with the product, for use with a company app not only for authentication but eligibility for rewards programs as well.
Finally, there’s always the adoption of solid purchasing practices — that is avoiding online purchases except from websites that have the longest track records of liquid vaping eccommerce sites on the Web.
Regardless of how you choose to go about it, the most important takeaway is to avoid fake vape tanks at all costs, even if it means saving up for another year before splurging at the vape store. At the end of the day, a functional vaping experience will always beat a traumatic one.