FDA Warns Online Retailers, Manufacturers for Selling Illegal E-Cigarettes

Agency also warns of tobacco products packaged to look like youth-appealing characters
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to 15 online retailers and three manufacturers and distributors for selling unauthorized e-cigarette products. In one case, the retailer also illegally sold a product to an underage purchaser.

The warning letters, sent Thursday, cited a range of popular youth-appealing e-cigarette products, including disposable products from Elf Bar, EB Design, Lava, Cali, Bank and Kangertech, the FDA said.

Retail sales data, internal data from youth surveys and more helped the agency identify the rising popularity of these youth-appealing products, which were then prioritized for investigation across the supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors to retailers, the FDA said.

“Given the rapidly evolving nature of the e-cigarette landscape, it’s essential that we have nimble surveillance tools that can best keep pace to protect public health,” said Brian King, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “They’re a critical component of our comprehensive surveillance toolbox, so that we can proactively identify and swiftly stave off emerging threats, particularly those affecting our nation’s youth.”

The FDA and National Institutes of Health awarded funding in June for a new Center for Rapid Surveillance of Tobacco to help with these efforts.

The companies that received warning letters sold or distributed e-cigarettes that lack authorization from the FDA through its premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) process. They have 15 working days to respond with how they will correct the violation and prevent future ones.

Since January, the FDA has issued civil money penalties to 29 manufacturers for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes. 

The September warnings follow similar ones in August, where the FDA issued warning letters to 15 online retailers for selling or distributing unauthorized e-cigarette products that were packaged to look like youth-appealing characters, school suppliers, toys and drinks.

“The design of these products is a shamelessly egregious attempt to target kids,” King said. “It’s a tough sell that adults using e-cigarettes to transition away from cigarettes need them to look like SpongeBob in order to do so successfully.”  

As children head back to school across the United States, the FDA said it is important for parents, teachers and adults to be aware of the illegal youth-appealing products, which can be deceiving and easily concealed.

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