Durbin Calls for FDA, DOJ Testimony on Unauthorized Vape Sales

Senator seeks testimony at a senate judiciary committee hearing following lack of enforcement against unauthorized e-cigarettes
Vape products
Photograph: Shutterstock

After repeatedly calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ)to protect children from the dangers of vaping and unauthorized sale of vaping, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is now demanding agency officials testify before Congress.

In a letter issued on Monday, Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested Center for Tobacco Products Director Brian King and Brian Boynton, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, to appear before Congress.

“I write to extend a formal invitation for you to appear and testify on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on the topic of the sale of unauthorized e-cigarettes,”the senator wrote.“I am writing to you because your agencies have not confirmed your availability for this hearing since my initial request on April 17, 2024.”

A spokesperson for the FDA told CSP on Wednesday that the FDA has received the letter and will respond directly to the Senator.

In April, Durbin convened a meeting with King and Boynton in his Washington, D.C. office to brief him on the lack of enforcement against unauthorized e-cigarettes.  In the meeting, Durbin pushed for answers on why the FDA is neglecting to use its full authority to take enforcement actions against manufacturers or retailers found to be selling unauthorized vaping products.

“I reminded them that they have a job to do and that they have the legal authority to stop unlawful e-cigarette manufacturers from flooding the market,” Durbin said.

Last year, Durbin’s office examined FDA’s public data files to identify e-cigarette manufacturers who have received both marketing denial orders and warning letters yet continue to sell unauthorized products, to assess FDA’s effectiveness in taking enforcement action against some of the most flagrantly defiant examples. 

The FDA has taken steps to crack down on the increase of unauthorized e-cigarettes. On April 30, the FDA, in collaboration with the DOJ, seized 45,000 units of unauthorized e-cigarette products, estimated to be valued at around $703,000, from a warehouse in Alhambra, California, believed to be owned by several California-based distributors. This action represents the first time the FDA and DOJ have seized tobacco products in coordination with the U.S. Marshals Service, the agency said.

Durbin isn’t the only senator pushing to combat the distribution and sale of unauthorized tobacco products.

In March, a group of Democratic senators sent letters to 22 top convenience-store chains and wholesalers highlighting “the apparent widespread violations of federal law that prohibits the sale and distribution of unauthorized tobacco products at convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets across the nation.”

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