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Friday, July 19, 2024

Counterfeit Vaping Products Inundate Retailers Amid FDA’s Import Battle

Popular e-cigarette brand Juul is being sued for billions of dollars after being accused of introducing young people to vaping.

Puff Bar followed, becoming a sensation in high schools until federal authorities started seizing the devices. Elf Bar intervened, and customs officials confiscated their goods. Behind them, a procession of knockoffs including the Virtue Bar, the Juicy Bar, the Lost Mary, the Lost Vape and many more, has begun to advance.

The majority of the US e-cigarette business, estimated at $5.5 billion, is made up of counterfeit products, many of which are coming in from China in bright Barbiecore colours and fruit, ice cream, and slushy flavours.

The FDA has only approved a small fraction of the hundreds of alternatives that line the shelves of convenience stores across the country, and the constant flood of vapes, some of which give 5,000 or more puffs per device or rising nicotine levels, has exposed a gaping lapse in compliance. There has been an increase in pressure on the FDA to take action from members of Congress, a dozen state solicitors general and even Big Tobacco.

While some may see the recent pleadings by the tobacco industry as a cringeworthy attempt to lock down market share, others may see the inclusion of these unusual bedfellows as an indication of a market run amok.

Agency representatives said they had exhausted all available means to punish illegal e-cigarette sellers. However, the government has recently levied fines as high as $19,000 per infraction, and these punishments tend to focus on only a small number of items offered in each business. Smaller communities in the United States were targeted by the agency’s directives to six manufacturers to cease sales of specific items.

The F.D.A. has sent hundreds of warning letters, yet it has had little effect: According to the C.D.C. Foundation, flavoured vape sales have increased by 60 percent over the previous three years, from 11 million vaping products a month in early 2020 to 18 million a month in June.

Seven years later, the CDC reports that 25-and-unders make up roughly 40% of e-cigarette users. Research on the sector shows that there are already over 2,000 different vaping and e-cigarette products on the market, but the agency has only approved approximately two dozen of them.

Federal surveys reveal that the percentage of high school students who vape has dropped from its peak of about 28 percent during the Juul frenzy of 2019 to approximately 14 percent last year. Those percentages come from a study where students were asked if they had used a vaporizer in the previous 30 days.

High-volume vapes, promising as many as 5,000 to 6,000 puffs, have entered the market in recent years. These products contain roughly as much nicotine as a box of cigarettes. The devices contain larger quantities of nicotine than were previously observed, and they come in flavours like birthday shake, gummy bear, and watermelon ice, which might appeal to younger teens. Truth Initiative chief research officer Barbara Schillo, who recently recorded the pattern in a study, confirmed that costs had decreased as well.

Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes must apply to the Food and Drug Administration for permission to market their goods and provide evidence that their products are safe and will encourage current smokers to quit using tobacco products. Millions of applications have been turned down, while some popular items have been allowed to stay on the market pending a decision by the agency.

Energy Marketers of America, a trade group for outlets including gas station convenience stores, has filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking for clarification on the legality of selling various types of electronic cigarettes.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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