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Despite Juul crackdown, the FDA isn’t enforcing its own vaping rules

Knock-offs have entered the market

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that e-cigarette startups like Juul have 60 days to prove they can keep their devices out of the hands of kids, or their products might be taken off the market. But a new report shows that despite this high-profile crackdown, the FDA isn’t doing enough when it comes to another part of the vaping market: copycats.

Two years ago, the FDA new rules in place that essentially banned new e-cig companies from entering the market unless they went through an extensive review process. According to a new Reuters report, however, in the years since, more than a dozen vaping devices have started selling with little consequence.

These include both large tobacco companies like British American Tobacco and startups like VGOD and Kandypens. Given that these companies are openly advertising on Instagram and talking about their products on earnings calls and press releases, they clearly don’t fear being struck down by the FDA. (The FDA has said it is investigating the copycats.)

These copycat companies are cashing in on the exploding popularity of e-cigarettes. Initially heralded as a “healthier alternative” to smoking or a way to help people quit, regulators are increasingly worried that the companies are targeting children who never smoked to begin with. Juul, in particular, has been hit with lawsuits claiming that its flavored products — often with kid-friendly names — target children.

It’s not enough for the FDA to simply go after the highest-profile vaping company; these knock-offs are part of the problem, too. If the FDA didn’t enforce its own rules last time, it’ll be harder for consumers to trust that they’ll go after these vaping companies this time around.