Recently, a very noteworthy piece of news came to the attention of those involved in the e-cigarette industry. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted a temporary injunction filed by a company called VPR, and ELFBAR was banned in the US for being involved in a trademark infringement case.
This is not the first time ELFBAR has faced a compliance crisis. Back in February this year, ELFBAR was revealed by the mainstream media in the UK, claiming that its products selling on the shelves of major supermarkets was overfilled with vape oil, labeling 2mL but actually filling with between 3-3.2ml of oil.
Although ELFBAR quickly did respond to the negative reports, claiming that the company did not intentionally cause the excess oil injection, it received very bad news about the sales of its products. In response, Independent TV in the UK followed up with a report on ELFBAR’s removal from shelves: Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have removed the related ELFBAR products from the top three retailers in the UK, while Morrisons has removed its products from the entire range. At the same time, UK retail trade press Betterretailing also followed up with a report on the shelves: UK wholesaler Booker has announced a recall of all its ELFBAR 600 range.
Unlike the traditional tobacco industry, the e-cigarette industry, though without enjoying a long history, soard in the past few years. As such, there was a time when the industry lacked relevant regulations. However, as this alternative to traditional cigarettes gains growing popularity in recent years, almost every country and region that allows the sale and promotion of e-cigarette products has tightened related regulations. For example, e-cigarette products in the US should follow the FDA’s PMTA standards, and in the UK to meet TPD product certification.
From then on, the issue of compliance in the e-cigarette industry, especially for disposable products, has been very much on the radar of practitioners. After all, there is a growing concern that many e-cigarette products have faced a variety of compliance issues in recent years and suffer negative impacts.
Public opinion condemnation
Once the tobacco industry is related to sensitive issues such as public health and underage protection, it is easy to provoke public sentiment. Many e-cigarettes have been criticized by public opinion because of the compliance and promotion of products.
Among them, the safety hazards caused by non-compliant e-cigarette products often land companies in an inevitable spiral of public opinion. A new case study on e-cigarettes shows that thousands of e-cigarette explosions have occurred in recent years. There was a previous nasty incident in Florida where an e-cigarette exploded. A man experienced unbearable third-degree burns on most of his legs after his Smok e-cigarette exploded in his pocket and ignited his pants. In the aftermath, many prominent media outlets reported on the incident and urged Smok, the e-cigarette manufacturer involved, to dispose of the safety-hazardous product as soon as possible.
In addition, last year ELFBAR was condemned by many healthcare experts and the UK’s leading media because some social media influencers on TikTok promoted its goods to young people in an apparent breach of advertising rules, whose videos were not age restricted, not always clearly marked as ads and therefore misled children.
Pulled from shelves over non-compliance concerns
According to The Grocer, an online media in the UK, several e-cigarette brands have been removed from the shelves of retailers such as One Stop and Booker.
The test by an independent lab commissioned by British American Tobacco (BAT) reported that almost all major disposable e-cigarette brands produced by non-major tobacco manufacturers, including SKE Crystal, Smok Mbar, IVG, Found Mary, Klik Klak and so on, contained illegal levels of vaping oil, while the evidence showed that the products, accounting for almost all disposable e-cigarette sales and volume in independent stores in the UK, tested “contained significantly more than the legal limit of 2ml of nicotine oil, ranging from 2.76ml to 3.88ml, an average of 58% over the limit.”
As you can imagine, a product being taken off the shelves can have a very negative impact on order volume and sales.
Brand image damage
The public pressure may still be able to pass with time, and products may gradually return to the shelves aftermath. While the damage to the brand image caused by the product’s non-compliance is ongoing.
Some brands have experienced some negative events so it is difficult to use the original brand name for product promotion. Back to the ELFBAR case, which was banned from marketing throughout the U.S. for infringing ELF (a subsidiary of VPR). In response, ELFBAR claims it will drop its original name and launch a new name, EB Design in the U.S., but continues to retain its original logo graphics. The name change may seem to be avoiding the risk of litigation, but rebranding is never an easy task.
Thus, ELFBAR faced an awkward situation: With such a high frequency of negative news appearing, even if the original brand name is maintained, brand’s reputation has been greatly tainted. And changing the name may be misunderstood by consumers, making its effort to accumulate high visibility in the U.S. in vain, while disappointing retailers and distributors who have a large backlog of products packaged with the original brand name.
Under the background of the tightening regulation, every practitioner should be alerted to the issue of compliance with e-cigarettes. In order to thrive in the industry, e-cigarette products should strictly follow the regulatory requirements of each country or region, and implement the “user-focus” concept. It is recommended that e-cigarette practitioners should base their compliance qualifications and deepen their brand insight to achieve a long-term developmental goal.