A parcel from China was confiscated in Philadelphia earlier this week containing 36 cartons of knock-off pods fitted for the popular Juul vaping system. Had they been sold as the genuine article, their estimated street value was close to $5,000.
Each seized carton contained eight packets of four pods—or 1,152 plastic rectangles—of mystery eJuice. Casey Durst, CBP’s director of field operations in Baltimore, cited the “potential health and safety threats” posed by the nicotine-containing knockoffs, vowing that, “CBP will continue to work closely with our trade and consumer safety partners to identify and seize counterfeit merchandise, especially those products that pose potential harm to American consumers.” In a statement to the press, Juul itself cautioned that the Chinese pods were “made with unknown and potentially hazardous chemicals, and with unregulated quality standards.”
Vaping is viewed by some as safer than smoking, but—even outside the realm of overseas knockoffs—its long-term health effects are not well understood. Small studies have found lead and other heavy metals present in vaped aerosols; some flavors have likewise been found to leave traces of formaldehyde in the respiratory system. It’s probably not great for heart health, according to the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and findings are mixed on whether or not vaping actually helps traditional smokers quit. One imagines that counterfeit vaping products, which CBP notes are often “manufactured in unregulated facilities and with substandard materials” don’t help make a positive case for it as a habit replacement.
Juul has faced an uphill PR battle over its marketing strategy that allegedly targeted teenagers, and a recent lawsuit by Juul alleging overseas vape competitors infringed on its patents was recently shot down in New Jersey District Court earlier this week. In spite of all this, and likely owing to the fact that nicotine is highly addictive, Juul has become the dominant vaping device on the market with profits in 2019 projected to break $3 billion.