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E-Cigarette Packaging to Resemble Products for Youth Prompt More FDA Warning Letters


The FDA has issued warning letters to several online retailers for selling unauthorized e-cigarettes that are packaged to resemble soft drink bottles, individual-serving milk containers, and youth-enticing toys, according to a recent statement.

The FDA explained that the products (see examples below) could help children and youth hide or conceal the e-cigarettes from adults. Equally disturbing, they could be confused with everyday objects, increasing the risk for accidental ingestion of the contents by young children, the agency said. The federal agency stated it is important for teachers and other adults who work with children to be aware of the illegal products.

“As we continue into the school year, it’s critical that parents, teachers, and other adults are aware of illegal e-cigarettes deceptively packaged to look like everyday items,” Brian King, PhD, MPH, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said. “These types of products can be easily concealed and contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain.”

The products specifically highlighted in the FDA’s warning letters include e-cigarette devices that imitate drink containers for youth-appealing drinks, such as slushies, soft drinks, and milk, and those that are designed to look like toys, including action figures, phones, and dice.

The FDA pointed to encouraging findings from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which reflected a decline in e-cigarette use among high school students since 2022, although the researchers also found an increase in overall tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes, among middle school students. E-cigarette popularity has not waned, according to the FDA; among high school and middle school students the nicotine delivery systems have remained the most commonly used tobacco product for 10 years. In fact, 2.1 million youth reported currently using the products in 2023.

E-Cigarette Packaging to Resemble Products for Youth Prompt More FDA Warning Letters Image credit US FDA

The 7 retailers targeted by the most recent warnings sell and/or distribute e-cigarette products that are not authorized in the US, a requirement under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C). The retailers were given 15 business days to respond with steps that will correct current violations and prevent future violations. The FDA threatened injunction, seizure, and/or civil money penalties for failure to comply.

The warning letters are a part of a larger FDA campaign to address illegal e-cigarettes that appeal to young people.

As of November 2023, the FDA has issued approximately 630 warning letters for the manufacture and/or distribution of illegal e-cigarette products and devices, as well as more than 400 warning letters to retailers for the sale of unauthorized e-cigarettes.

The agency has also filed civil money penalty complaints against 35 e-cigarette manufacturers and 42 retailers for manufacture or sale of the unauthorized products. Additionally, the FDA has worked with the Department of Justice to “seek injunctions against 6 manufacturers of unauthorized e-cigarettes.”

E-Cigarette Packaging to Resemble Products for Youth Prompt More FDA Warning Letters Image credit US FDA
Images courtesy of US Food and Drug Administration

Source: FDA warns retailers to stop selling illegal youth-appealing e-cigarettes disguised as everyday items. Press release. FDA. November 16, 2023. Accessed December 4, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/ctp-newsroom/fda-warns-retailers-stop-selling-illegal-youth-appealing-e-cigarettes-disguised-everyday-items

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