Dunn: It’s time to enforce existing rules for vaping products

Posted 5/24/23

When you hear about flavors like “rainbow candy”, “peach mango,” or “vanilla ice cream,” it might conjure up images of chewing gum or children’s juice boxes.

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Dunn: It’s time to enforce existing rules for vaping products


When you hear about flavors like “rainbow candy,” “peach mango,” or “vanilla ice cream,” it might conjure up images of chewing gum or children’s juice boxes. But those are actually flavors of Chinese-made e-cigarettes that come wrapped in colorful packaging and are advertised all over social media.

It’s a stark reminder of just how eager marketers are to lure kids in.

Over three years ago the Food and Drug Administration finalized a new enforcement policy on “unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes that appeal to children.”

“Under this policy, companies that do not cease manufacture, distribution and sale of unauthorized flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes (other than tobacco or menthol) within 30 days risk FDA enforcement actions,” according to the press release from the FDA announcing the new guidance.

The policy halted cartridge-based e-cigarettes but had zero effect against stopping illicit Chinese disposables from inundating the market.

In fact, a review of the 2020 and 2022 National Youth Tobacco Surveys shows that the percentage of underage people using ENDS products reporting that they use disposable e-cigarettes has skyrocketed from 15.2% to 55.3%.

U.S. Rep. James Comer, the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, believes the problem lies not in the policy, but in the FDA’s is failure to enforce it adequately.

“If products are allowed to go to market or stay on the market without authorized applications, then the entire regulatory effort would appear to be pointless,” wrote Comer in a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. “We also urge FDA to devote the necessary resources to take those products most attractive to underage users off the market as quickly as possible.”

Rep. Comer is right. And I hope our own Representative Debbie Lesko will join him in his call for revamped enforcement to prevent Chinese disposable, flavored ENDS products that lack authorization to remain on smoke shop shelves or be distributed online.

The vast majority of the illicit ENDS products that are flooding the U.S. originate from China and advertise fun, non-threatening flavors like “strawnana.” Many contain foreign-made synthetic nicotine and evade the health and safety requirements of U.S. ENDS manufacturers who are following FDA’s policy.

Congress should step up its oversight of the FDA’s enforcement, or lack thereof, of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. It should inquire as to why so little has been done to keep kids safe and, if necessary, implement new reforms that reverse the frightening trends in underage vaping.