Photo: Steven Senne (AP)

Juul Labs, the embattled manufacturer of the eponymous (and extremely popular among teens) Juul e-cigarette, is cracking down on Chinese knockoffs being sold on eBay.

According to Bloomberg, the company has filed for and received a restraining order on dozens of Chinese companies it said were selling fake versions of its product through the online sales giant, saying they pose potential safety risks somewhat more immediate than whatever long-term health effects pulling on that Juul might pose. The order also appears designed to play into the company’s response to claims it knowingly marketed to underage users (a cat that already escaped the bag years ago). Bloomberg wrote:

The company filed trademark claims against 30 entities in China for selling counterfeit Juul-brand devices and nicotine pods on EBay Inc., according to a AAstatement Tuesday. Juul was granted a temporary restraining order late last month by a judge in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, who froze the PayPal accounts of those businesses.

... “The scale of counterfeit Juul products is alarming,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns said in the statement. “These counterfeiters also drive a black market where there is no age verification.”

... The case is Juul Labs Inc. v. The Unincorporated Associations Identified in Schedule A, 18-cv-01063, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

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According to Bloomberg, Juul has “worked to remove more than 16,000 listings from online marketplaces since January.”

As Vice News noted earlier this year, foreign manufacturers often make cloned versions of popular vaping products that are designed to be indistinguishable from the real thing. Counterfeit products are hardly new, but fake vapes are particularly eyebrow-raising because cheap batteries can explode, e-liquids sold alongside them could be loaded with toxic chemicals, and the devices could improperly heat up, releasing harmful substances instead of vapor. And, as Juul was quick to point out, buying a clone on eBay means age verification of buyers likely never happens (not that it’s hard for teens to get their hands on a real one).

Scientific research currently indicates that vaping—at least if you’re not using a dangerous counterfeit product—is less harmful to adults than cigarettes. However, like all products that deliver nicotine, they can have adverse effects on the development of young brains.

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Juul Labs is currently facing a Food and Drug Administration investigation into whether it knowingly marketed to underage users, as well as staring down a separate Massachusetts attorney general inquiry centering on whether it properly verified ages for online sales through its website or third-party vendors. It also faces several lawsuits claiming the devices were deceptively marketed as safe, while in fact they are highly addictive.

[Bloomberg]