Many people use e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco products. Some believe that vaping provides a healthier way to consume nicotine and may help them quit smoking. However, scientists have discovered that vape products such as e-cigarettes may cause more harm than good. It’s especially troubling that companies have begun marketing these products to young children.
They design their e-cigarettes to resemble popular toys, food, or cartoon characters that children easily recognize. For instance, some vape pens look like glow sticks, walkie-talkies, popsicles, and even the Nintendo Game Boy.
Others feature images of trendy characters from shows and movies, including “The Simpsons,” “Squid Game,” and “Minions,” for example. While these products don’t exclusively target children, they will inevitably attract youth with their vibrant colors and well-liked characters.
However, in November 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) sent warning letters to five companies to stop selling unauthorized products or risk enforcement. The warnings included 15 different e-cigarette products for which the manufacturers failed to submit a premarket application, making them illegal.
These Vape Companies Received FDA Warnings
The FDA issued warning letters to the following companies:
- Wizman Limited doing business as Wizvapor
- Shenzhen Fumot Technology Co., Ltd., doing business as R and M Vapes
- Shenzhen Quawins Technology Co., Ltd.
- Ruthless Vapor
- Moti Global
“The designs of these products are an utterly flagrant attempt to target kids,” said Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in a press release. “It’s a hard sell to suggest that adults using e-cigarettes to quit smoking need a cartoon character emblazoned across the front of the product to do so successfully.”
Sadly, tobacco product use continues to rise among middle and high school students. According to an FDA report, more than three million adolescents regularly used tobacco products in 2022. Over 25% reported using e-cigarettes daily, with disposable varieties being the most popular. Approximately 85% used flavored e-cigarettes, such as fruit, candy, dessert, and other sweet flavors.
FDA Cracks Down on Unauthorized E-Cigarette Companies
While these statistics are alarming, the FDA’s move to hold e-cigarette companies accountable will hopefully reverse this trend. The warning letters notified the companies that selling or distributing e-cigarettes without prior authorization is prohibited under the FD&C Act. If the manufacturers fail to comply and don’t correct the violations, the FDA can take additional actions such as injunction, seizure, and/or civil money penalties.
Additionally, officials might refuse admission or detain misbranded or adulterated products imported into the U.S. The FDA suggested that retailers and distributors discuss alternative plans for any illegal products in their inventory with their suppliers.
“The FDA is committed to keeping tobacco products out of the hands of our nation’s youth,” said Dr. King. “The agency will continue to hold companies accountable for illegally selling e-cigarettes, particularly those that shamelessly target youth.”
The warning letters signified a milestone in the FDA’s mission to eliminate unauthorized tobacco products from the market. By October 2022, the FDA issued over 440 warning letters to companies marketing illegal e-cigarettes containing nicotine from tobacco. They also sent more than 60 warning letters to companies that sold unauthorized products containing non-tobacco nicotine.
On Oct. 18, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), on the FDA’s behalf, filed complaints for permanent injunctions in federal courts against six e-cigarette companies. Each of the manufacturers failed to submit premarket applications for their vaping products.
Despite the FDA’s prior warnings, they also continued illegally manufacturing, distributing, and selling their products. These cases mark the FDA’s first time instituting injunctions to enforce the FD&C Act’s premarket review provisions for new tobacco products.
“Today’s enforcement actions represent a significant step for the FDA in preventing tobacco product manufacturers from violating the law,” said Dr. King in another press release. “We will not stand by as manufacturers repeatedly break the law, especially after being afforded multiple opportunities to comply.”
Why Are E-Cigarettes So Harmful?
Some believe e-cigarettes are safe because they contain fewer harmful chemicals than combustible cigarettes. While this is true, vape pens and similar products can still negatively impact health. A few reasons to avoid e-cigarettes include the following:
- Many e-cigarette flavorings contain nicotine, the highly addictive substance in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. Nicotine can adversely impact brain development, which occurs until about age 25. Studies show that using nicotine in adolescence can harm brain regions responsible for attention, impulse control, mood, and learning.
- They may cause lung injuries or even death. While it’s rare, vape products can cause a condition called e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI). In February 2020, the CDC reported 2,807 cases of EVALI and 68 deaths attributed to lung illness. The CDC identified high levels of vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent commonly used in THC vaping products, in all the patients’ lung fluid samples. However, it’s important to note that the e-liquids that caused the outbreak came from black-market vaping products.
- Vape products can contain thousands of hidden chemicals. A study by Johns Hopkins researchers revealed that vaping liquids and aerosols might contain compounds undisclosed by manufacturers. They discovered that some tobacco-flavored liquids had nearly 2,000 chemicals, most of which they couldn’t identify. Of the chemicals they could identify, they found caffeine, three industrial chemicals, a pesticide, and two flavorings associated with respiratory irritation.
- E-cigarettes may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows higher cardiovascular disease among dual users of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes than smoking alone. However, more studies are needed to confirm the findings.
These are just some of the documented effects of e-cigarettes on health. Since vape products are relatively new, scientists can’t yet confirm or fully understand their risks or long-term impacts. It’s best to avoid vaping entirely if you want to err on the side of caution.
Final Thoughts on FDA Warning E-Cigarette Firms to Stop Marketing to Kids
In October 2022, the FDA began enforcing stringent rules for e-cigarette companies that market their products to children. The agency sent warning letters to five companies that violated the law by selling and manufacturing unauthorized products. The administration said it would keep companies accountable and keep dangerous products out of children’s hands.