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  /  News   /  FDA, DOJ launch task force to prevent illegal sale of e-cigarettes

FDA, DOJ launch task force to prevent illegal sale of e-cigarettes

(NewsNation) — The U.S. Department of Justice and Food and Drug Administration have launched a multi-agency task force to combat the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes.

“Unauthorized e-cigarettes and vaping products continue to jeopardize the health of Americans — particularly children and adolescents — across the country,” acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said in a statement. “This interagency task force is dedicated to protecting Americans by combatting the unlawful sale and distribution of these products. And the establishment of this task force makes clear that vigorous enforcement of the tobacco laws is a government-wide priority.” 

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Different law enforcement agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Federal Trade Commission will take part in the task force as well, according to the news release posted this week by the FDA. These entities will work together to streamline efforts to bring “all available criminal and civil tools” against the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes, the news release said. 

This task force was first proposed by outside experts in 2022, according to the Associated Press. Its launch comes days before a Senate hearing set to address what lawmakers are calling a “youth vaping epidemic.”

E-Cigarette Use Among Youth

According to the FDA’s 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey,  2.1 million youths reported currently using e-cigarettes, a decrease from the 5.3 million youth using them in 2019. 

Still, the FDA cautioned that 10% of high school students, and almost 5% of middle school students, said in the survey that they currently use e-cigarettes. One in four said they use e-cigarettes daily. 

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“Manufacturers, distributors and retailers market a wide range of products that appeal directly to school-age users, such as candy and fruit flavors, some of which come in devices designed to be easily concealed,” the FDA said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that nicotine poses “unique dangers” to young people, whose brains are still developing. Nicotine, per the CDC, can do damage to parts of an adolescent’s brain that controls attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.

E-Cigarette Regulations

As of June 2024, the FDA has authorized the sale of 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices, making them the only ones that can be lawfully marketed and sold in the United States.

There have been more than 1,100 warning letters sent by the FDA to manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers over the illegal sale or distribution of unauthorized products. More than 55 manufacturers and 140 retailers have been hit with civil money penalty complaints filed by the FDA. The agency, working with the Justice Department, has also filed injunctions against six manufacturers.