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Federal Agencies Join Forces to Fight Sales of Illegal Vapor Products

The new task force will help streamline and coordinate investigations.
Judge hammering disposable vape with referee's gavel on white table. ; Shutterstock ID 2194172063

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a federal multiagency task force to combat the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes, especially targeting products that appeal to young people.

Multiple law enforcement partners will assist with the new investigatory team, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Agency partners will help coordinate and streamline efforts to bring all available criminal and civil tools to bear against the illegal distribution, with additional agencies possibly joining the task force in the coming weeks and months. 

The task force will focus on several topics, including investigating and prosecuting new criminal, civil, seizure and forfeiture actions under the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act); the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other authorities. Violations of these statutes can result in felony convictions and significant criminal fines and civil monetary penalties. They can also result in seizures of unauthorized products

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Through their participation in the task force, the USMS will help the FDA and the DOJ effectuate such seizures, while coordination with the ATF and USPIS could result in potential criminal and civil enforcement actions.

Finally, the FTC, which releases reports about tobacco marketing, will support the activities of the task force, including by sharing its knowledge about the marketplace for vaping products. 

The 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that about 2.1 million youths reported currently using e-cigarettes, which reflects a considerable decline from 5.3 million youth in 2019. However, 10% of high school students and almost 5 percent of middle school students reported currently using e-cigarettes. According to the Center for Disease Control, youth use of tobacco products in any form — including e-cigarettes — is unsafe.   

To date, the FDA has issued more than 1,100 warning letters to manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers for illegally selling and/or distributing unauthorized new tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and has filed civil money penalty complaints against more than 55 manufacturers and 140 retailers.

The FDA currently authorizes the sale of 23 specific tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices, a full list of which may be found via the agency's Searchable Tobacco Products Database

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