Bipartisan lawmakers raise alarms over vapes from China

In a letter exclusively provided to The Hill, Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and
Raja Krishnamoorthi
(D-Ill.) wrote to Robert Califf, head of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), following up on unanswered inquiries they had sent to the agency in November. 


“While we appreciate the recent joint federal operation resulting in the seizure of more than 1.4 million units of illegal e-cigarettes in December 2023, much more needs to be done,” they wrote. “Illegal vaping products from the PRC [People’s Republic of China] now make up more than half of all vaping products sold in the United States and contribute significantly to underage vaping rates.” 


The lawmakers noted data from the FDA that indicated more than 1 in 4 youth report using e-cigarettes daily, and most of them say they prefer flavored versions. 


They specifically cited the brand Elf Bar — which 56 percent of users reported using — as being “illegally imported” from China. The product line features brightly colored e-cigarettes with various fruity flavors.


Critics have widely argued that these sorts of products are purposely designed to appeal to children and young adults. Despite the FDA issuing a ban on most fruit and mint-flavored e-cigarettes, products continue to flow into the U.S. and become available for purchase. 


The lawmakers asked what the FDA planned to do to stem the flow of e-cigarettes from China and whether it planned to enforce legal proceedings against manufacturers. They also asked why the FDA has not issued a rule requiring foreign manufacturing registration, which the Tobacco Control Act allows for.


The agency is overdue in its task of reviewing pre-market tobacco product applications, which are required for new tobacco products to be legally marketed in the U.S. The FDA previously said it would finish reviewing applications by the end of December 2023 but missed that deadline.


Krishnamoorthi and Wittman requested to know when the FDA would complete its reviews and pressed the agency over the delay.


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