FDA Warns Retailers Over Illegal Tobacco Sales

Both brick-and-mortar and online retailers received warning letters for selling unauthorized Elf Bar/EB Design and ZYN products.
Angela Hanson
Woman smoking an e-cigarette

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues its efforts to push back on illegal tobacco sales at the retail level.

On March 26, the FDA announced it issued warning letters to 61 brick-and-mortar retailers for selling unauthorized e-cigarette products marketed under the brand names Elf Bar/EB Design and Lava. The letters are part of the agency's ongoing monitoring of multiple surveillance systems to identify products that are popular among youth or have youth appeal.

[Read more: FDA Creates Database for Legally Marketed Tobacco Products]

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According to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 50 percent of young people who use e-cigarettes reported using the brand Elf Bar. The Lava brand was also identified as popular or youth-appealing by the agency following review of retail sales data and emerging internal data from a survey among youth.

Recipients of warning letters have 15 working days to respond with the steps they will take to correct the violation and to prevent future violations. Failure to promptly correct the violations can result in additional FDA actions such as an injunction, seizure and/or civil money penalties.

Additionally, on April 4 the FDA said it issued 119 warning letters to and filed 41 civil money penalty complaints against brick-and-mortar retailers that engaged in the underage sale of various flavors of ZYN nicotine pouches between October 2023 and February 2024.

At the same time, the agency issued warning letters to three online retailers for the sale of unauthorized, flavored ZYN nicotine pouches, including Espressino, Black Cherry, Lemon Spritz and Cucumber Lime.

[Read more: FDA Fines More Retailers Over Illegal Youth-Appealing E-Cigarette Sales]

The 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that approximately 1.5% of youth reported currently using nicotine pouches, and use has remained unchanged among youth in recent years. However, the FDA stated it has received reports about the potential increased popularity of these products among youth, and that the products are also a popular topic on social media among youth and social media influencers.

"Although currently available data do not show that youth use of nicotine pouches has increased, FDA remains concerned about any tobacco product that may be appealing to youth and we will continue to closely monitor youth use of these products," said Brian King, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "There is no excuse for selling tobacco products to any underage person, and FDA will hold retailers accountable for those violations — especially those who continue to do so after being warned."

To date, the FDA has issued more than 550 warning letters to and filed more than 100 civil money penalty complaints against retailers for the sale of unauthorized tobacco products.

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