- Counterfeit Juul pods line shelves after the company stopped selling its fruity flavors in stores.
- Juul limited sales of its sweeter flavors to its own online store last fall amid scrutiny from the FDA.
- Juul’s investigations into counterfeit products have all traced back to China.
The market-leading e-cigarette company stopped selling fruity flavors of nicotine pods in retail stores last fall amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration to stem what it declared an “epidemic” of teen vaping. Yet mango, fruit and creme pods continue to line store shelves — presumably many of them fake.
Juul users have been deluged with a variety of alternatives since then. Some companies have rushed in to make “compatible” pods that can be vaped with Juul’s devices but are marketed under different brand names. Then there are the more troubling, counterfeit products, which advertise themselves as and look like real Juul pods to the naked eye.
Concerns about the health effects of vaping are growing as more and more users report health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said 22 states have reported 193 possible cases of severe lung illness and one related death associated with e-cigarette use.
For Juul, counterfeit pods add another risk to the already embattled company. Parents and regulators might not distinguish whether minors are using real or fake Juul products. And it’s unclear what exactly users are inhaling when they puff on fake pods.
“Counterfeit products are a direct threat to public health and our plan to combat youth usage,” Juul CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement, adding that “other companies are aggressively and illegally selling counterfeit ‘JUULpods’ in the very flavors we stopped shipping, which are made with unknown ingredients and under unknown quality and manufacturing standards.”
Health officials say it’s too early to pinpoint what’s causing the nearly 200 cases of severe pulmonary disease. All they know at this point is they are associated with vaping and in many cases products containing THC, the substance in marijuana that produces a high.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said these cases are probably linked to counterfeit products that work with commonly used devices, including Juul. Gottlieb, who is a CNBC contributor, said the clustering of the illnesses suggests these products are “getting into local markets.”
“The responsible companies … have taken their flavored products out of convenience stores, like Juul. So now what’s filling the void are these counterfeit flavored products,” he said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
….Read more at CNBC