Black market retailers could purchase many of its counterfeit materials through Amazon webpages, which have recently disappeared.
The numbers continue to add up in the vape crisis hitting the country, as six people have died and hundred more suffered serious injury. In response, the Trump administration announced plans this week to ban the sale of most e-cigarette and vaporizer products. This plan of action likely won’t solve much, as the vaping-related illness primarily was caused by goods purchased on the black market. Banning the legal sale of such products could only fuel the black market further, resulting in the injury and death total to rise.
But throughout this crisis, one major player in the conversation has remained suspiciously quiet. That would be Amazon, the massive online retailer. Earlier this year, Inverse reported that many black market retailers were buying materials through Amazon’s website. That included empty boxes for Dank Vapes, the black market shadow brand masquerading as legitimate and regulated good. Through Amazon’s bought materials, however, counterfeiters could trick unsuspecting consumers into buying their cartridges, which only landed them in the hospital.
It also included more alarming materials—such as bulk orders of California compliant stickers, further duping customers that the state had tested the vaporizer cartridges they were smoking. Tamper-evident seals, cartridges, and oils could also be found on Amazon. If you wanted to launch a black market enterprise of vape cartridges, you could buy most of what you needed on Amazon.
However, Minnesota Public Radio reported that Amazon quietly pulled the web pages for these products amidst the public health crisis. Those pages can still be found in Google searches for product pages like “Dank Vape Empty Packaging” or “Cali Plug Carts Packaging.” In each case an Amazon purchase link is the first Google result.
Most damning, though, is that these pages were only pulled after reporters started asking questions. On Monday, MPR News asked Amazon how it regulated its marketplace for counterfeit products, linking two examples of vape-related materials. By Tuesday, those web pages disappeared, as well as dozens of others.
The New York Department of Health confirmed in a release that the majority of cases in their state were caused by vitamin E acetate. Black market retailers use vitamin E oil as cheap thickener in cartridges, Leafly reported. If you have any illicit or black market-purchased vape cartridges, it is best advised you immediately throw them away. That your illicit cartridge might contain Vitamin E oil is more likely than not, as an industry source told MPR News that he estimates the oil is present in more than 60% of all cartridges in the United States.