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Authorities Crack Down on Illicit E-cigarettes: Seizures, Mislabeling, and Persistent Challenges

FILE - Varieties of disposable flavored electronic cigarette devices manufactured by EB Design, formerly known as Elf Bar, are displayed at a store in Pinecrest, Fla., Monday, June 26, 2023. U.S. officials are seizing more shipments of unauthorized electronic cigarettes. But industry data shows thousands of new flavored products continue pouring into the country from China. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)Image: ASSOCIATED PRESS

US authorities have recently intercepted and seized over 1.4 million illegal e-cigarettes, valued at $18 million, from overseas manufacturers, including the Chinese company behind the popular Elf Bar brand.

The seized products, mislabeled as toys and shoes, were found at Los Angeles International Airport and involved various brands such as Elf Bar, Lost Mary, Funky Republic, and EB Create. This marks the first reported success in blocking the company from distributing its vapes in the US.

Elf Bar, a top choice among American teens, continues to gain popularity despite FDA warnings. In a related development, a police officer in Sleaford, UK, discovered illicit vapes containing more than the legal limit of liquid during an unrelated investigation.

The confiscated vapes, potentially lacking safety features and with higher nicotine concentrations, are now under investigation by Lincolnshire Trading Standards.

Despite increased efforts to curb the influx of unauthorized electronic cigarettes, government and industry data reveal that thousands of new flavored products, primarily disposable e-cigarettes from China, are still entering the US market. Over 11,500 unique vaping products are currently available in US stores, a 27% increase from June.

The FDA, struggling to keep pace, has refused entry to 374 shipments in 2023, more than double the 2022 figure.

The surge in disposable e-cigarettes, generating $3.2 billion in sales in the first 11 months of 2023, highlights the ongoing challenges in regulating the vaping market.

The FDA, having authorized only a few e-cigarettes for adult smokers, is facing difficulties in reviewing applications and preventing the influx of unauthorized products. The rise of new brands and products, often after import bans, demonstrates the industry’s adaptability.

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Public health advocates are urging the FDA to adopt alternative approaches, such as banning entire classes of e-cigarettes, particularly flavored disposables, which are widely used by underage teens.

The persistent delays in the FDA’s review process and the continuous evolution of vaping products underscore the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework to address the complexities of the rapidly changing vaping landscape.

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