Efforts Increasing to Prevent Illegal Vapes From Reaching Kids

2 min read

June 12, 2024 – A new federal effort aims to crack down on illegal e-cigarettes, such as Elf Bar, with the goal of reducing young people’s access to the addictive products.

Just 23 e-cigarette products are legal in the U.S., and all are tobacco flavored. 

Illegal products include popular items like flavored, disposable vapes. In December 2023, 1.4 million units of unauthorized e-cigarette products were seized by the FDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The products were worth $18 million.

The new plan combines the efforts of the FDA, the Justice Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and several other agencies to form a task force. They will focus on enforcing existing laws, seizing products, and taking legal action against those who illegally sell or distribute the products.

About 1,100 manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers are on the task force’s watch list and have been sent warning letters for distributing or selling illegal tobacco products, the FDA announced this week. The agency also said it has fined 55 manufacturers and 140 retailers, plus successfully requested court orders against six manufacturers to stop making and selling the illegal products.

An estimated 1 in 10 U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes in 2023, and about 1 in 4 reported vaping daily. Nearly all youth who vape say that they use flavored products, which were banned by the FDA in 2020. Current law allows the sale of e-cigarette and vape products to people age 21 and older.

Most e-cigarette products contain nicotine or synthetic forms of nicotine, which are sometimes marketed as safer than tobacco. The CDC says nicotine is especially harmful to young people because their brains are still developing. Nicotine addiction among young people can occur before regular or daily use.

“Using nicotine during adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control,” the CDC warns.

Vaping during youth also increases a person’s risk of addiction to other drugs.

“The American Lung Association applauds this announcement for much needed enhanced coordination between the Department of Justice, Food and Drug Administration and law enforcement agencies to enforce the law on companies that continue to sell, distribute and import illegal tobacco products aimed at addicting our nation’s youth to tobacco products,” said American Lung Association president and CEO Harold Wimmer, in a statement. “For too long, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers have acted without regard for the law or public health.”