So, you want to sell the electronic cigarette?
Good on you – in addition to hopefully making a profit you’ll also be helping people to save money and improve their health.
But it’s a complex area, and the tips below could potentially save you a lot of time, money – and legal costs!
In this post we provide a guide for new sellers. For downloadable guides and wholesale prices, please visit our UK e-cig wholesale page.
What you can and can’t say
In the UK and the US you CAN NOT make claims that the electronic cigarette can help people stop smoking. Instead, you can say that smokers can switch from one form of smoking to another. And of course, they’ll be switching to a form which has no tobacco and which scientists estimate could be in the region of 99% safer than tobacco cigarettes.
In the UK you CAN say that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes (in fact, the UK government NUDGE unit has done just that) but in the US you are not currently allowed to make health claims. If you are in another country, you’ll need to check with your equivalent of Trading Standards about which claims you can make.
There are numerous regulations surrounding the electronic cigarette – you can check a list of them here. Compliance is essential – Trading Standards can and have stripped non-compliant products off the shelves.
If you are a small reseller, one option is to buy from an Electronic Cigarette Trade Association (see our interview with ECITA here) member. All members get their devices tested (often in the UK) and undergo twice yearly comprehensive audits to ensure they comply with all UK and EU regulations, and you’ll also be supporting the campaign to keep the e-cigarette legal. That’s not to say that you should automatically exclude a good company if it is not a member, but an ECITA logo is a good sign of compliance!
Buy from China or from a reseller?
The problem with buying directly from China, without independent checking of the product and the contents, is that many e-cigarettes don’t comply with the regulations we have mentioned above. “Fake” compliance certificates are readily available, therefore you may also find that a product passes the Chinese ROHS approval but fails UK ROHS/NOHM approval , and also fails to comply with the many other regulations in place in the UK and Europe.. Reputable suppliers will be able to supply UK standard certification.
It’s also possible that you buy from a small independent seller who poses as a big company. You won’t find out about this until your order doesn’t turn up, your supplier doesn’t answer emails, you ring up the company you think you have been buying from and find out they have never heard of you!
Poor Quality Stock
It’s common for you to fly to China, be shown a high quality e-cigarette – but find that the stock you are sent a few weeks later is of a completely different quality. In the past, we have had to dispose of thousands of pounds worth of stock because it just wasn’t good enough.
When you do go to China, you’ll also suffer from the politics of e-cig companies. It’s common for a company to tie you up as much as you can in meetings so that you don’t get time to visit their competitors.
If you do find a good supplier, be aware that you may be down the line in terms of priority. When a factory has to provide a large reseller with 500,000 cartomisers, an order of a few thousands pounds worth is not going to be a priority and will only be produced when important customers have been dealt with.
So if you are a small supplier, you’ll be better off with a UK seller, letting them take the hassle from China – and suffer the awful toilets and traffic in Shenzen! If you then grow to offer considerable purchasing power, and can find your way though the Chinese maze, it may be worth trying to find one of the genuine companies!
Testing in China is no longer enough. While the biggest suppliers probably do test their products properly, we also have both our hardware and eliquid tested in UK government approved laboratories, and we also do our own testing on new batteries to make sure that overcharge protection is present and working. We also produce our own eliquid in-house in the UK, which has the following advantages:
- we can be sure that our eliquid is manufactured from pharmaceutical grade nicotine
- our pharmocologist can review the ingredients used in flavours to make sure they are not a known lung irritant
- we can mature eliquid before bottling to ensure greater flavour
- we can test eliquid ourselves in addition to sending it off to government approved labs
Sell online or in a shop or market stall?
With advertising on Google banned, it can take a while to get a website off the ground. In contrast, selling in person at a show, shop or marketing stall is very easy to get going, and can rapidly build up!
What’s essential is to have a trial electronic cigarette – most smokers, when they have actually tried an e-cigarette, will give it a go. A shop or market stall can rapidly build up a customer base as users return to buy refills/eliquid – and pass the word round to their friends. As always, excellent customer service is the key to successful recurring business.
Interested in setting up your own shop? We asked both successful retailers and industry experts for their top tips: