Images of pods from the authorized and unauthorized vendors are at the bottom of this editorial.
Do you know where your Juul pods are coming from? Our recent reporting suggests that if you are buying your Juul products from the Village Market, you may not. After finding several discrepancies between the Village Market pods and pods sold by Apple Valley Marathon—a verified retailer as per the Juul website—the Market provided us with the name of their wholesaler: Gummer Wholesale, Inc. Despite several attempts, we failed to obtain a comment from them. The concerns that students have voiced about the Market’s Juul pods has led the Collegian to recommend against buying Juul pods from any unauthorized vendor, which currently includes the Village Market.
As a result of the unregulated nature of the vaping market, counterfeit products have flooded stores. In fairness to the Market’s wholesaler, it is hard for sellers to identify real and counterfeit pods. According to CNBC, counterfeiters are sophisticated to the point that their products are virtually indistinguishable to venders and distributors. However, consumers should look for these telltale signs once they open the product: the liquid being dark yellow or cloudy, discrepancies in packaging and the pod itself looking different, leaking, or tasting especially unpleasant.
Per Juul’s website, “Due to the regulated nature of our industry, we encourage customers only to purchase our products from authorized retailers.”
A Juul customer support representative told us on the phone not to purchase Juuls from any non-authorized seller as they were more likely to be counterfeit. Members of our staff purchased Juuls from the Apple Valley Marathon, an authorized dealer, and from the Village Market for comparison. A cursory comparison of these pods does reveal slight differences, including that the Market’s pods leaked on our hands and the mouth of the pod looked visibly different from those we purchased from Marathon.
It is entirely plausible, as one student in our article suggests, that since Juul has stopped supplying mint, the Market’s mint-flavored Juul pods are simply an older batch, which may explain the different tastes and colors alleged by students. But just last month, an investigation by Indiana’s excise police revealed that a food mart in the state without authorization to sell Juul pods had been selling counterfeit e-liquids according to ABC 7 Chicago. Distinguishing real and fake pods from an unauthorized vendor is hard—for your own safety, just don’t do it.
E-cigarettes like Juuls are unhealthy in their own right. They deliver a high level of nicotine and their appeal to underage users, which is highly troubling. But there is even more risk associated with counterfeits, which are unhealthy and lack quality control. Juul warns that such products may contain unknown and hazardous chemicals.
Counterfeit pods can look like Juul pods. They can fit into Juuls. They can taste somewhat like Juul pods. This does not mean that they are. If you Juul, do so with caution. Do not buy Juul pods from unauthorized dealers.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Becca Foley ’20 and Adam Schwager ’20, and executive director Tommy Johnson ’20. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Village Market Mint Juul pods and Apple Valley Marathon Virginia Tobacco Juul pods.
Below is a comparison of the mouths, packaging, and coloring of the Juul pods purchased by the Collegian staff. The first image demonstrates that the Apple Valley Marathon’s pods have a wider mouth, they come in different packaging (though it appears Juul updated its packaging approximately 4 months ago), and they are visibly clearer than the pods purchased from the Village Market.