The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to 15 companies for selling “unauthorized e-cigarette products” — otherwise known as vapes — disguised as school supplies, food and drinks, toys and other kid-enticing designs, according to a Wednesday press release.
The letters were sent to 15 online sellers.
In addition to issuing the warnings, the FDA also aims to warn parents, teachers and other adults to keep an eye out for these deceptive, illegal products amid back-to-school season.
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“The design of these products is a shamelessly egregious attempt to target kids,” said Brian King, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in Atlanta, Georgia, in the release.
The letters include descriptions of some of the “youth-appealing” designs, including vapes that look like cartoon characters, stuffed animals, highlighters, cameras, handheld video games and coffee drinks.
“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,” said King.
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In the letters, the FDA warns the retailers to “take any necessary actions to bring the tobacco products that they offer for sale in the United States into compliance with the FD&C Act.”
The retailers will have 15 business days to reply to the warning with an action plan for complying with the FDA’s requirements.
Retailers that do not “promptly correct the violations” could face actions including injunction, seizure and/or fees, the FDA stated.
“CTP will continue to closely monitor all those in the supply chain, including retailers, for compliance with federal law,” said Ann Simoneau, director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement within FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
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“As always, we will hold anyone accountable that sells unauthorized tobacco products labeled, advertised and/or designed to encourage use by our nation’s youth.”
As of August 2023, the FDA has sent around 600 warning letters to companies making and/or selling illegal tobacco products, which includes vapes, it said.
The agency has also handed out penalty fees to 26 vape manufacturers and sought injunctions against six others.
The FDA recently launched its Vaping Prevention and Education Resource Center, which provides parents, teachers and teens with educational resources about the dangers of e-cigarette use and nicotine addiction.
In 2022, some 2.55 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, the CDC reported.