FDA Cracks Down On Tobacco Retailers for Illegal Sales Of Vapes, E-Liquids, To Minors

Federal health officials have issued warning letters to nearly five dozen tobacco retailers, for selling electronic cigarette and vape tobacco products to minors, which is now prohibited under the newly redefined regulatory power of federal officials. 

In a press release issued on September 15, the FDA announced that 55 sellers of tobacco products were issued their first warning letters for allowing newly regulated tobacco products like e-cigarettes, e-liquid and cigars to be sold to minors.

The warning letters are the first to come from the FDA following a recent reform in regulatory oversight for any and all tobacco related products to include e-cigarettes and vaporizer style tobacco products.

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On May 5, the FDA finalized a new rule extending the agency’s authority to oversee and regulate the sale of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, e-liquids, vaporizers and their associated parts. The new rule also grants authority to regulate cigars, hookahs and pipes which have become increasingly popular among younger consumers.

The rule was introduced following a year-long streak of e-cigarette explosions causing hundreds of injuries including many horrific reports of blindness, house fires, and facial and leg burns from the devices unexpectedly exploding during use or when in the owner’s pocket.

In addition to the mechanical dangers of the products, the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recognized a rapid increase in the sale of electronic cigarette devices by the nation’s youth under the age of 18. Data from the CDC shows current e-cigarette use among high school students increased by more than 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. Within the same time period, high school boy’s use of cigars and flavored hookahs increased significantly also, posing a risk for the younger generation to become long term tobacco products users.

The FDA’s new oversight of all tobacco products was primarily designed to protect the nation’s youth by designing rules to govern electronic cigarette manufacturers and retailers by focusing on the importance of keeping e-cigs and the chemicals they release away from children and teens. The rule places an increased burden on retailers who could face civil and further penalties if they do not abide by the new regulations.

The warning letters came after a compliance checks at major national retail chains, tobacco specialty stores and online retailers allowed minors to purchase a variety of e-cigarette products.

“Retailers place a vital role in keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children and we urge them to take that responsibility seriously,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Prior to the passing of the FDA’s new rule, the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, allowed the FDA to closely monitor tobacco retailers and gave limited authority to take corrective action when violations were found. Since 2009, the FDA conducted more than 660,000 inspections of tobacco product retail establishments and issued more than 48,900 warning letters to violating retailers. From the inspections, more than 8,290 civil monetary penalties were issued for violations.

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