The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued 10 warning letters to retailers and manufacturers who sell, manufacture and/or import electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) — products the agency says are targeted to youth or likely to promote use by youth.
“The warning letters were sent to establishments marketing unauthorized products, such as a backpack and sweatshirt designed with stealth pockets to hold and conceal an e-cigarette, ENDS products that resemble smartwatches, or devices appearing as children’s toys such as a portable video game system or fidget spinner,” the FDA said in a statement.
These are all products that raised the ire of the FDA.
“Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not lost our focus on protecting youth against the dangers of e-cigarettes and will do everything we can to take action,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
“These warning letters should send a clear message to all tobacco product manufacturers and retailers that the FDA is keeping a close watch on the marketplace,” Zeller said. “If you’re marketing or selling these products to youth, the FDA will not tolerate it.”
On March 18, the FDA announced it was directing its staff to begin teleworking and would temporarily postpone all routine surveillance facility inspections of vape shops in response to the coronavirus crisis. The inspections related to the recent warnings took place before the suspension of reviews.
The manufacturers who received warnings are: Vaprwear Gear LLC; Vapewear LLC; Wizman Ltd.; EightCig LLC; Ejuicepack LLC; Vape Royalty LLC; VapeCentric Inc.; Dukhan Store; VapeSourcin; and Shenzhen Uwell Technology Co. Ltd.
These companies — both American and from overseas — sell products that appeal to kids in the way they are designed and labeled, according to the FDA.
For example, Vaprwear Gear’s pullover and backpack products hold pod systems that deliver vapor through hosing, discreetly woven through hidden pockets. This design allows the products to be used for vaping without raising the attention of parents, teachers or other adults, the agency said.
Similarly, the Vapewear vWaTch Starter Kit and Wizman Puff Boy Mod look like products that are popular with kids — such as smartwatches, video game systems and fidget spinners — that can be carried or worn without revealing they are vaping products.
The companies declined to respond to requests for comment.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association — a nonprofit that advocates for vaping products — said AVA doesn’t tolerate marketing to youth.
“For the vast majority of the products that the FDA sent warning letters regarding [vaping products geared toward youth], we feel the FDA acted appropriately,” Conley told InsideSources. “There is a great need for flavored vaping products to help smokers quit, but there is no such need for SpongeBob SquarePants to be depicted on a bottle.”
While there is no evidence that vaping increases health risks from the coronavirus, the lack of data hasn’t stopped anti-vaping activist groups from using the coronavirus crisis to advance their goal of restricting — or even completely banning — the use of e-cigarettes, arguing that vapers are at higher risk of harm from COVID-19.
Conley agrees that certain groups are trying to link COVID-19 to vaping.
“There is no evidence to claim vaping worsens or improves or does anything with regard to COVID-19 because there is simply no data,” he said. “That has not stopped countless activist groups and bureaucrats from seizing on the moment to pretend that vaping and smoking are the same thing.”
The FDA also recently issued warning letters to 73 brick-and-mortar retailers for selling unauthorized flavored, cartridge-based ENDS products.
This follows 22 warning letters that FDA issued last month for similar violations to online and brick-and-mortar retailers and manufacturers across the country.
These warning letters are part of a series of ongoing actions consistent with the FDA’s recently issued policy of enforcement priorities for e-cigarettes and other vaping products on the market.