Illegal vapes seized by customs in Cincinnati

Customs officers in Cincinnati have seized 72,500 counterfeit vape pod packets worth more than $1.1m in a single shipment arriving from Hong Kong.

The counterfeit Pop Blue Razz flavoured nicotine pods were destined for an address in Georgia, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which said the seizure is particularly important given the outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in recent months.

As of February 18, 2,807 cases of hospitalisation or death due to EVALI had been reported to CDC, although there’s been no update since as the coronavirus pandemic started to be felt across the US. That figure included 68 fatalities.

Because of the potential risks associated with vaping, Pop Blue Razz and all other flavoured pods other than tobacco and menthol were banned by the FDA in January in a bid to rein in vape use by young people.

The policy specifically targets “certain unauthorised flavoured e-cigarette products that appeal to kids, including fruit and mint flavours, so even if genuine the Pop Blue Razz pods would be prohibited from sale in the US.

Risks are elevated even further with counterfeits of course. Pods in the US are produced in regulated facilities, and the manufacturing process and ingredients are regulated by the federal government. The same cannot be said for counterfeit products manufactured overseas.

“Consumer health and safety are our key concerns when Customs and Border Protection officers enforce intellectual property rights laws,” said Richard Gillespie, Cincinnati’s Port Director.

“Counterfeit products that you inhale or ingest could seriously hurt you. They are manufactured in unregulated and unsanitary facilities with ingredients that you cannot be sure are authentic.” He added.

CBP notes that one of the more popular brands of vaping products on the market today, Juul, has been seen being imported illegally in many ways, most of which is counterfeit.

Last October for example, Cincinnati CBP seized a shipment that contained 180 counterfeit Juul pod packets. This shipment also came from Hong Kong, and was heading to a residence in Miami.

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