Florida retailers urge more action from Biden Admin against illegal Chinese vapes targeting youth

by | Nov 20, 2023

  • Florida has emerged as a national hotspot for illegal vaping products from China.
  • The Florida Retail Federation is calling for more coordination with the federal Food and Drug Administration to aid in enforcement.
  • Recent FDA crackdown efforts have targeted South Florida retailers selling unauthorized e-cigarettes, some aimed at youth.

Federal officials are warning that Florida is at the epicenter of a massive influx of illegal vaping products, particularly those originating from China, with many targeting toward youth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has intensified efforts to combat the issue, particularly in South Florida, with multiple retailers receiving warning letters for selling the unauthorized e-cigarettes.

At least 12 different Florida retailers – out of 26 nationwide – have so far received penalty complaints, including six earlier this month, for their involvement in the sale of the illegal or black market overseas vape products, among them, a Dixie Petroleum location in West Palm Beach, a Vape and Smoke Shop location in Coral Springs, a retailed doing business as “Vape + Glass” in Lanatana, a “to Go” gas station on Atlantic Boulevard in Margate, and Boulevard Smoke Shop on Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. The full list of retailers receiving the penalty letters can be reviewed, here.

“Florida remains the number one state in the country for the sale of illicit and illegal vapor products in the country according to latest industry data – and many of these products are coming from China,” said Scott Shalley, President and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “The number one product being sold is the HQD brand of products coming from China.”

The FDA’s actions follow a larger effort to clamp down on illegal and unsafe vaping products that are particularly appealing to the youth. This year, an extensive nationwide retailer inspection was conducted, resulting in a series of warning letters. These efforts are part of the FDA’s ongoing surveillance to monitor the marketplace for such products.

Recent studies published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report have reinforced concerns about the risks posed by Elf Bar products to young people. These studies have shown that Elf Bar is the most popular disposable e-cigarette brand among young users in the U.S. Furthermore, a substantial number of e-cigarette exposure cases, especially among children younger than 5 years old, have been reported, with Elf Bar being cited more frequently than all other brands combined.

“The Florida Retail Federation takes compliance and protecting customers extremely seriously,” Shalley said. “We would like to see more transparency and action at the federal level by the FDA – so there is a known list of products that are legally allowed to be sold. The FDA’s current ‘red list’ does not begin to capture all of the products that are coming in illegally to our state.”

Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, emphasized the responsibility of all players in the supply chain, including retailers, to prevent illegal e-cigarettes from reaching the market. He stated that the recent inspection blitz should serve as a wake-up call for retailers nationwide, particularly those selling Elf Bar and Esco Bars products.

In addition to the warning letters, the FDA has issued import alerts for Elf Bar and Esco Bars brands, placing these products on a red list subject to Detention Without Physical Examination. This move is part of the FDA’s broader strategy to address e-cigarettes with high youth appeal, including flavored disposable products.

The FDA’s vigorous enforcement actions are a response to the unlawful marketing of these products. To date, the FDA has authorized only 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices for legal sale in the U.S. The distribution or sale of products without such authorization is subject to compliance and enforcement actions.

The FDA, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, also announced funding for a new Center for Rapid Surveillance of Tobacco (CRST). This center will enhance the surveillance capabilities of the dynamic tobacco landscape, complementing the CTP’s internal efforts to track changes in the tobacco product marketplace and usage patterns.


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