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THC vape dealers are stealing customers’ money online, FDA says

If you must vape, buy from a state-regulated dispensary.

A man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette.
A man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette.Read moreRobert F. Bukaty / AP

Black-market vaping devices are blamed in the U.S. for more than 2,000 lung injuries and 54 deaths this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you feel you must vape, here’s another reason to stick with products sold only in state-approved dispensaries.

Online dealers are not only illegal, they can also steal your money, according to federal agencies.

The FDA and DEA on Friday said they have seized and taken down 44 websites advertising illicit THC vaping products. THC is the intoxicating substance in cannabis products that causes most users to feel high. Many of the 44 companies existed only to take customer money and had no intention of mailing out any vaping cartridges or devices, according to an FDA press release.

The FDA could not say if any of those companies were based in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

The FDA said its law enforcement arm began investigating shady vape enterprises shortly after lung injuries began to be reported to health authorities. FDA labs have collected more than 1,000 samples of suspect materials from consumers, hospitals and state offices. Vitamin E acetate, an ingredient used in vaping liquids containing THC, has been linked to many of the lung injuries, according to the CDC. And you can avoid the compound by buying through state-approved dispensaries.

The seized websites directed people to order illegal THC vaping materials and pay for them with various financial services. “Investigators were able to complete a purchasing transaction for illicit THC vaping cartridges, but to date have not received any of the product ordered,” the FDA said in a statement.

In addition to the health risks, the scam sites that purported to be THC dealers pose other risks to consumers, including credit card fraud, identity theft, and exposure to computer viruses. The FDA encouraged anyone who has been defrauded to report suspected criminal activity to it’s Office of Criminal Investigations.