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FDA Cracks Down on Illegal Vapor Products as New Report Finds Increase in Overall Sales

The enforcement effort specifically cited Elf Bar and Esco Bars as brands of concern.
Woman smoking an e-cigarette

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to 189 retailers for selling unauthorized tobacco products. The letters specifically named the Elf Bar and Esco Bars brands, both of which manufacture disposable e-cigarettes that come in flavors known to appeal to youth, including bubblegum and cotton candy.

[Read more: FDA Issues Updates on Tobacco Regulation Agenda]

The warning letters were the result of a nationwide retailer inspection blitz over the past several weeks cracking down on the sale of unauthorized e-cigarettes. The FDA cited concerns over the products' appeal and risks to young people as part of their reasoning for the crackdown. 

"The FDA is prepared to use all of its authorities to ensure these, and other illegal and youth-appealing products, stay out of the hands of kids," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf. "We are committed to a multipronged approach using regulation, compliance and enforcement action and education to protect our nation's youth."

The announced enforcement effort comes on the heels of a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found that overall e-cigarette monthly unit sales increased by 46.6 percent from January 2020 to December 2022. Additionally, sales of disposable devices increased, along with the sales of youth-appealing flavors, such as fruit, candy and desserts.

The CDC noted that Elf Bar was the most popular disposable e-cigarette sold in the United States in December 2022, followed by Vuse, JUUL, NJOY and Breeze Smoke. That study aligns with recent findings from the International Tobacco Control Survey, which found that as of August 2022, Elf Bar was the top disposable e-cigarette brand reported among persons ages 16 to 19 in the U.S. and was responsible for driving recent increases in e-cigarette use among the same age bracket in England

[Read more: FDA Cracks Down on Illegal Sales of Disposable E-Cigarettes]

A second study showed thousands of e-cigarette exposure cases reported to U.S. poison centers in the past year, most of which were among kids younger than five years old. Among the limited number of cases with brand information reported from April 2022 to March 2023, Elf Bar was cited more than all other brands combined, with nearly all Elf Bar cases occurring among that young demographic.

"All players in the supply chain — including retailers — have a role in keeping illegal e-cigarettes off the shelves," said Brian King, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "This latest blitz should be a wake-up call for retailers of Elf Bar and Esco Bars products nationwide. If they're waiting for a personal invitation to comply with the law, they might just get it in the form of a warning letter or other action from the FDA."

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