The multi-agency task force will ramp up criminal and civil enforcement actions against manufacturers, distributors, and retailers responsible for the illegal sale and marketing of e-cigarette products.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Federal Task Force Creation: The DOJ and FDA have launched a multi-agency task force to tackle the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes.
  2. Enforcement Focus: The task force will investigate and prosecute violations under various statutes, leading to potential felony convictions, fines, and product seizures.
  3. Public Health Priority: The initiative aims to protect public health, especially for youths, by reducing access to unauthorized e-cigarettes, supported by enforcement actions from the FDA and DOJ.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have created a federal multi-agency task force to combat the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes.

Along with the FDA and the DOJ, the task force will bring together multiple law enforcement partners, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the US Marshals Service; the US Postal Inspection Service; and the Federal Trade Commission. Additional agencies may join the task force in the coming weeks and months. 

The federal task force will focus on several topics, including investigating and prosecuting new criminal, civil, seizure, and forfeiture actions under the PACT Act; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; and other authorities. 

Violations of these statutes can result in felony convictions and significant criminal fines and civil monetary penalties. They can also result in seizures of unauthorized products, which can help to make illegal e-cigarettes less accessible, including to young people. Through their participation in the task force, the US Marshals Service will help the FDA and the DOJ effectuate seizures of unauthorized e-cigarettes within the United States.  

Focus on Protecting Public Health

“Unauthorized e-cigarettes and vaping products continue to jeopardize the health of Americans, particularly children and adolescents, across the country,” says acting associate attorney general Benjamin C. Mizer in a release. “This interagency task force is dedicated to protecting Americans by combatting the unlawful sale and distribution of these products. And the establishment of this task force makes clear that vigorous enforcement of the tobacco laws is a government-wide priority.” 

The 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that about 2.1 million youths reported currently using e-cigarettes, which reflects a considerable decline from 5.3 million youth in 2019. However, 10% of high school students and almost 5% of middle school students reported currently using e-cigarettes, and more than one in four of those e-cigarette users reported daily e-cigarette use. 

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers market a wide range of products that appeal to school-age users, such as candy and fruit flavors, some of which come in devices designed to be easily concealed. 

FDA’s Authorized Products and Enforcement Actions

To date, the FDA has authorized the sale of 23 specific tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices. These are the only e-cigarette products that currently may be lawfully marketed and sold in the United States. 

To date, the FDA has issued more than 1,100 warning letters to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers for illegally selling and/or distributing unauthorized new tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and has filed civil money penalty complaints against more than 55 manufacturers and 140 retailers for the manufacture and/or sale of unauthorized tobacco products. 

In addition, the FDA and the Justice Department have obtained injunctions against six manufacturers to stop them from manufacturing and selling unauthorized e-cigarette products.

Support from the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association applauded the announcement of the multi-agency task force. 

“For too long, manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers have acted without regard for the law or public health. The Lung Association has urged enhanced law enforcement actions be taken to hold manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors accountable for selling illegal tobacco products and to protect the public health, especially children’s health,” reads a release from the association. 

It continues, “The American Lung Association commends the DOJ, FDA, and other agencies involved in this task force. Ongoing and coordinated enforcement is necessary to remove the illegal and addictive tobacco products from the market.”

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