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How to know if your vape juice is safe

How to know if your vape juice is safe

John Boughey |

Last fact-checked 31 January 2024 | Report a content error

Here in the UK, e-liquid manufacturers need to follow strict rules on ingredients and nicotine strength. But how safe is vape juice? How can you tell if the e-liquid you use is safe and legal? 

What is a ‘safe’ vape juice?

Here in the UK, vaping regulations are in place to make vaping safer, but no vape device or e-liquid can call itself 100% ‘safe’. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: if you are a non-smoker, you should not vape. E-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than cigarettes, but vaping is not entirely harm-free. Having said that, vaping is safer than some alternatives:

Compared to a standard tobacco cigarette, a vape is much much safer. Smokers inhale tar and carbon dioxide the moment they light up a cigarette. These materials are “two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke” (source:, and they are not present, at all, in e-cigarette vapour. E-cigarette vapour does contain other potentially harmful chemicals that are also found in cigarette smoke (nicotine, for instance), but not at the same concentrations. 

Vaping in the UK is safer than vaping in some other countries, because UK (and EU) law puts strict controls on e-liquid ingredients. For instance, in 2016, a Harvard study found traces of a chemical called diacetyl in a wide range of flavoured vape juices that existed at the time. Diacetyl inhalation is linked to a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (more commonly known as popcorn lung), so the UK authorities very quickly banned diacetyl as a vaping ingredient. There is still no proven link between popcorn lung and vaping (source:, but all the same it is reassuring to see that the authorities were willing and able to protect vapers with ingredients legislation when needed. Today, the ingredients ban also covers caffeine, taurine and colourings (ref:

Vaping can help you quit smoking, which leads to much better long-term health outcomes. The action of vaping is similar to smoking, and comes with the familiar ‘throat hit’ of a cigarette (source: This might be part of the reason why it’s such an effective stop-smoking tool. E-cigarettes also contain nicotine, just like patches and gum. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, so you need to be careful when using it and think about your weaning strategy. See Tapering down: how to wean yourself off nicotine successfully.

How can I tell if my vape juice is safe?

The simplest way to keep yourself safe is to check if your vape bottle meets the legal requirements, and always buy your juice from a reputable vape shop. 

Checking the bottle

By law, if an e-liquid contains nicotine, it should contain no more than 10ml of e-liquid, it should have a nicotine strength no more than 20 mg/ml, and it should be registered with the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). It should also have a best-before date, and you would expect to see a UKCA manufacturing standard stamped somewhere on either the packaging or the bottle itself. 
Nicotine-infused e-liquid bottles are almost always 10ml, but the nicotine strength can vary. As long as the nicotine strength quoted on the bottle is 20mg/ml or below, it is legally compliant. 
If you get an e-liquid bottle that is bigger than 10ml, then by law it should have no nicotine in it. This e-liquid is called shortfill and is usually sold in a bottle with enough room in it to add a nicotine booster (learn more in our helpful guide to shortfill).
Any e-cigarette product containing nicotine needs to be registered with the MHRA. You can search the MHRA e-cigarette database online in a couple of clicks. You just type the name of the e-juice into the ‘Brand Name(s)’ field and click ‘Apply’. Just bear in mind that MHRA registration only applies to products that contain nicotine — you won’t find shortfill e-liquid on the list. 

Checking the shop

Where possible, you should always buy your vape juice from a reputable, established vape shop. Specialist vape shops work directly with specialist wholesalers and stock only the finest, legally-compliant vape juice. Vape shops are staffed by vapers who can advise you properly on everything from e-liquid flavours to nicotine strength and kit. Vape shops are often members of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and/or the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA). 
If you can’t buy direct from a specialist vape shop, then you’re probably going to have to buy from a convenience store. First off, check for online reviews. If a review reveals any attempts to sell a shopper out-of-date goods, or if underage alcohol sales are mentioned, then it would suggest that this shopkeeper isn’t too fussed about consumer safety. Don’t risk buying vape juice from a place like this. Vaping has an impact on your health and you need to ensure that the people selling you your juice have integrity.  Second, have a look for their scores on the doors. Scores on the Doors is a food hygiene ratings system — it has nothing to do with vape products — but it can give you a good clue as to whether your local shop is clean and well-managed. 

If you have any doubts about a product
or a retailer, vape shop or not, you can report it to Trading Standards for investigation. Visit to learn more.

What if my vape juice is no longer for sale?

Sometimes, you might find an e-liquid disappears. No matter where you look, your favourite flavour is simply not for sale anymore. You might worry that it has been withdrawn because of a safety issue. Here at Gourmet E-Liquid, there are lots of reasons why vape juice flavours might get quietly withdrawn from the market, but customer safety isn’t one of them. If a vape juice flavour is deemed unsafe, we recall it

At Gourmet E-Liquid, we have a simple and effective plan in place to help us manage the risk of product recalls. One of the benefits of running an online business is that there is a log of every customer who has bought any given product. Using our email system, we have the ability to notify affected customers in a matter of hours. If we have to, we can drop what we’re doing and get in touch with our online customers in a heartbeat. 

Occasionally, we might choose not to sell a vape juice flavour due to ethical or legal concerns. If a product’s branding really is offensive or irresponsible, we reserve the right to refuse to sell it. We don’t like to play the role of judge and jury, however. What we would love is for the vaping industry to have its own independent body to police these sorts of issues (see our recent article).

Most of the time, when a manufacturer stops making a vape juice flavour it’s because they have just decided to change their menu of products. It’s nothing to do with product safety or social responsibility. Manufacturers won’t abandon you though; they often release a new flavour similar to the one you’re used to. If you don’t like the new version of your favourite e-liquid, please get in touch with us. We can usually help you find a different e-juice brand with a very similar taste to the one you fell in love with in the first place. 

We hope this puts your mind at ease about any products that have been withdrawn from sale, but if you have any concerns, just drop us an email. We’re happy to double-check our records if it puts your mind at ease - it’s no problem. 

Stay safe and happy vaping!

John Boughey

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