To those of us who have been around the block a time or two already, using and purchasing hardware or e-liquids has become second nature. We know what we're looking for, and generally know where to get it.
For our new friends just taking their first tentative steps, however, things may not be as immediately clear.
We know from our long experience of talking to new vapers that finding a device which works for them is the key to successfully making the switch permanently, so it's so important that not only are they getting the right information, but that the products they decide to spend their hard-earned cash on are authentic and of the highest quality.
Like any electronic product, e-cigarettes are not immune to counterfeiting, and we take our responsibility to inform our customers seriously.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Before parting with your money, think about who you are shopping with. Are they a reputable brand, with easy access to customer service. Do they offer warranties? If shopping online, are there product reviews available to read? Seeing what others customers have had to say can be an effective way of weeding out the fakes.
Once you've settled on a purchase, once it arrives there are a number of things you can check.
Packaging - Does the device or e-liquid come supplied in quality packaging, stamped with the relevant regulatory markings (CE, RoHS, and the new health warnings imposed by the TPD)?
Fit and feel - Does your shiny new e-cig feel like a quality product in the hand? If it feels fragile, or just generally 'cheap', that may be an indication that things aren't all what they seem.
Product manuals - Was your device supplied with a suitable user manual? Any quality product worth its salt will come with full, legible, instructions for use.
WHAT TO AVOID
There are some big red flags to look out for which would send us running.
If you can't easily talk to someone at the company about your purchase, or if they are unable (or unwilling) to answer your questions, take our advice and walk away. If a vendor is unwilling to help you before you've spent any money, what do you think their attitude will be once they've been paid?
How does their shop or website look and perform? Established vendors will spend a great deal of time and money making sure that their customers can easily find and purchase their products in an attractive, safe environment. A seedy back room or broken website is not a good indicator of quality.
No-name products should also be avoided at all costs. Over the years there have been an influx of cheap knock-off eGo style devices, all of which look (and may even perform) similarly.
Of particular importance is the increasing prevalence of fake IMR batteries. These high-drain cells are very powerful pieces of kit, and it's vital that you're using a genuine product. Look out for the correct labelling, and avoid vendors making silly specification claims on their cells (hint - there's no such thing as a 50A IMR 18650). Don't take the risk with your batteries - only ever buy from reputable companies
THE BLACK MARKET
With the introduction of the TPD across Europe, a great number of new product restrictions have come into force. For better or worse, these rules are here to stay, and a number of vapers have as a result turned to the black market for access to products which are no longer legally obtainable.
We cannot ever condone this practice. Yes, the rules surrounding nicotine strengths and volumes have impacted the DIY crowd, or vapers using high-strength e-liquids, but they have also brought in strict quality controls. Seeking out black market e-liquids means you aren't protected by those rules, with no real accountability for substances you are vaping.
When you purchase 'home-brew' e-liquid, you are exposing yourself to all manner of unknown and potentially dangerous chemicals. Substances such as diacetyl have been banned as part of the TPD, a protection you won't have when buying from the bathtub brewers.
We know it may be tempting to look elsewhere for bigger bottles now that bottles over 10ml in volume have been banned, but it's not worth the risk.
While not part of the black market in a technical sense, there are also some very well known sites stocking cloned hardware. These cheap knock-offs may be priced attractively, but are constructed on a shoestring budget. When you buy a genuine device, you're also paying for the cost of research, development, and quality components. So if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
At No1VapeTrail we put quality, performance and reliability above all else. We've done the legwork to produce products which not only work, but which are safe.
It might be tempting to cut corners, and we love a bargain as much as the next person, but we'll always put safety front and foremost in everything we do. You can rely on No1VapeTrail to supply only vape hardware which meets our exacting standards.