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July 28, 2023
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FDA Plans to Kill Disposable Vapes One Warning Letter at a Time

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Jim McDonald

The FDA issued warning letters yesterday to three vape product distributors, ordering them to remove certain disposable vapes without FDA authorization from their commerce websites. The letters—and the accompanying FDA press release—are the latest salvos in the FDA’s futile war on disposables.

“FDA is committed to keeping a finger on the pulse of the rapidly evolving e-cigarette landscape, including through a variety of scientific assets equipped to quickly identify products with high youth appeal,” FDA Center for Tobacco Products.Director Brian King said in the press release.

Cutting-edge Google searches

But despite the agency's claim it uses cutting-edge enforcement tools, it appears the FDA is simply doing Google searches to find websites that offer the brands the FDA is most concerned with. Two of the companies that received warning letters are primarily cannabis product distributors that also have a small selection of nicotine vaping products for sale. The three companies, all based in California, are:

  • ABS Distribution Inc.
  • Easy Wholesale, LLC
  • EC Supply, Inc.
  • These are not major nicotine vaping product distributors that might hire lawyers and dispute FDA actions in court. The agency seems instead to be targeting smaller companies that are likely to dump the cited products without an argument. (At least one of the three companies has already removed Elf Bar and Esco Bar products from its online catalog.)

    The companies were cited for selling either Elf Bar/EBDESIGN, Esco Bar or Puff Bar (or Puff Max) products. Those three disposable brands have been targeted in almost all of the FDA’s recent disposable vape enforcement actions.


    FDA’s whack-a-mole war on disposables

    In mid-May, the FDA ordered shipments of Elf Bar and Esco Bar products detained at ports of entry. A week later, the agency sent warning letters to the manufacturers of Esco Bar and Breeze disposables, ordering them off the market. Six days after those actions, the FDA warned 30 retailers for selling unauthorized Hyde and Puff Bar disposables. On June 22, the agency sent warning letters to 170 stores and 19 online retailers for selling Elf Bar and Esco Bar products.

    The popularity of disposable vapes grew quickly after 2020, when the FDA announced it would prioritize enforcement against pod- and cartridge-based vapes in flavors other than tobacco and menthol. In the two years following the change in enforcement guidance, disposables captured 33 percent of the convenience store/gas station segment of the vaping product market.

    The FDA has faced increasing pressure to crack down on disposable vapes from tobacco control groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, members of Congress, and especially tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, whose Vuse e-cigarette products directly compete with disposable vapes in c-stores. Reynolds has initiated a multi-pronged campaign against the popular devices.

    Since the FDA granted itself authority to regulate e-cigarettes in 2016, it has granted marketing permission to just eight vaping devices (along with tobacco-flavored refills). One of the eight (the Vuse Ciro) has since been discontinued due to weak sales, and none of the others are popular. All are made by manufacturers owned by major tobacco companies.

    The FDA has not authorized the sale of any products in flavors other than tobacco, and has not allowed the sale of any bottled e-liquids used in open-system devices. Dozens of small- and medium-sized vaping manufacturers have challenged the agency’s marketing denial orders (MDOs) in federal court.

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    Jim McDonald

    Vaping since: 12 years

    Favorite products:

    Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

    Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

    Jim McDonald

    Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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