Government agents seized 42 shipments of counterfeit e-cigarettes worth $719,543 in suggested retail value, the Food and Drug Administration announced last week. The nearly 34,000 units included knockoffs resembling the Puff Bar brand, such as Puff XXL and Puff Flow

The fake e-cigarettes arrived from China at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport where they were seized by Customs and Border officers working together with agents from the FDA. The counterfeit e-cigarettes were headed to different parts of Texas.

Puff Bar’s e-cigarettes are similar to vaporizers, a.k.a. “vapes,” made by JUUL, a leading brand of e-cigarettes containing nicotine. JUULs contain a pod filled with a proprietary e-liquid containing nicotine, glycerine, benzoic acid, propylene glycol, and flavor. 

Vapes have been linked to lung damage and the American Lung Association warns that e-cigarettes — largely marketed for fun flavors — can harm a child’s brain development. 

Fake Vapes: Safety and Marketing Concerns

The joint FDA/Customs and Border Patrol operation is part of an initiative to intercept fake e-cigarettes along with those that violate health and marketing standards. Several companies have been warned by the FDA about targeting products to children, specifically. 

In addition to concerns about fake vapes getting into the hands of children, fake vapes are made from unknown ingredients and with unknown quality standards, presenting risks to users of all ages.

JUUL pulled popular fruity and other sweet flavors that appeal to teens from stores in late 2018. However, in-store sales of compatible alternatives and counterfeit JUULs continued, according to a CNBC report from August 2019. (Online sales of those flavors from the JUUL web store continued until that October.)

In July 2020, JUUL Labs announced a national enforcement campaign against retailers selling counterfeit JUUL e-cigarettes. JUUL has filed numerous lawsuits, the New York Times and Bloomberg report, and in 2018 lodged a complaint with the International Trade Commission.

FDA Told Puff Bar to Remove Flavored E-Cigarettes from Market  

In July, the FDA told Cool Clouds Distribution (doing business as Puff Bar) to remove their flavored e-cigarettes and youth-appealing e-liquid products from the market. The FDA cited improper premarket authorization.

Though the Puff Bar website seems to have stopped online sales, their e-cigarettes may still be sent to other retailers. The website features a store locators function, so customers can still search for items, the FDA said in a statement. 

How to Spot and Avoid Fake Vapes

Want to spot a fake JUUL or other counterfeit vapes? A few things to look for include:

  • Real JUULs have the JUUL logo on top of the box, while fake JUULs have four dots instead.
  • Real JUULs say “The Alternative for Adult Smokers” on the packaging.
  • The cotton in fake JUULs may appear fluffy and messy, while authentic JUULs have neatly arranged cotton.
  • Pricing: Real JUULs cost about twice as much as fake JUULs. 
  • For photos of real and fake JUULs and more ways to tell them apart, visit VapeActive.
  • To increase the odds of receiving authentic products, buy only from authorized retailers.