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U.S. seizes more illegal e-cigarettes, but thousands of new ones are launching

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In an ongoing struggle to curb the influx of unauthorized electronic cigarettes, U.S. officials are seizing more shipments at ports, while industry data reveals a surge in new flavored products flooding in from China, posing challenges to the $7 billion vaping market.

Recent data from analytics firm Circana highlights a 27% increase in unique vaping products available in U.S. stores, totaling more than 11,500 items. The majority are disposable e-cigarettes, generating a substantial $3.2 billion in revenue during the first 11 months of this year. Concerns mount as these products, particularly fruit-flavored ones, remain popular among American teens.

Despite the FDA’s efforts to authorize certain e-cigarettes for adult use and scrutinize major companies like Juul, the market’s chaotic state persists. The agency faces difficulties in preventing the launch of new and altered products, creating a continuous challenge in combating youth vaping.

While FDA actions, such as import alerts, have resulted in the refusal of 374 shipments in 2023 – more than double the previous year – industry tactics, like relabeling shipments, continue to thwart regulatory measures. Recent instances, such as the mislabeling of $18 million worth of illegal vapes as different goods, underscore the complexities faced by authorities.

The FDA’s struggle to keep up with rapidly evolving vaping trends prompts questions about the effectiveness of its current regulatory framework. Delays in reviewing manufacturer applications and the unpopularity of FDA-authorized tobacco-flavored products add to the growing concerns.

Public health groups, frustrated with the pace of FDA reviews, have resorted to legal action to expedite the process. The agency’s attempt to adapt its approach in the face of a changing environment raises the possibility of decisions based on entire classes of e-cigarettes rather than individual products.

As the U.S. contends with the rising tide of illegal e-cigarettes, voices like Stanford University’s Bonnie Halpern-Felsher advocate for a proactive stance, urging the FDA to ban all flavored disposable e-cigarettes to mitigate the risk of nicotine addiction among the younger generation. The battle to regulate the vaping industry intensifies as manufacturers adapt and authorities strive to keep pace with evolving challenges.

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