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January 30, 2024
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FDA Targets 21 Esco Bar Retailers with $20,000 Fines

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Jim McDonald

The FDA has charged 21 small retail stores with selling unauthorized disposable vapes, and will seek to punish them with the maximum fines allowed by law. Most of the businesses are convenience stores and gas stations.

The stores are charged with selling Esco Bar disposables, which have not been authorized for sale by the FDA. The agency says all 21 stores were previously warned for selling unauthorized products and will now face escalating consequences.

The agency is seeking the largest civil money penalties (CMPs) allowed by law for a single violation. The Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act (of which the Tobacco Control Act is a part) provides for a maximum CMP of $20,678 for each violation relating to tobacco products.

“These retailers were duly warned of what could happen if they continued selling these unauthorized e-cigarettes,” said FDA Center for Tobacco Products Director Brian King in a press release. “They should have acted responsibly to correct the violations, but they chose not to do so and now must face the consequences of that decision. FDA won’t sit back and tolerate inaction to comply with the law.”

Esco Bar retailers and distributors have been targeted multiple times with FDA warning letters. Last May, the agency ordered its import inspectors to detain shipments of Esco Bar arriving at U.S. ports. A week later, the manufacturer of Esco Bar vapes was ordered to remove the products from the U.S. market.

Businesses continue to distribute and sell products like Esco Bar disposables—despite concerns over FDA punishment—for a simple reason: customers want them. An estimated 10-15 million Americans use nicotine vapor products, and just a tiny percentage use the handful of low-powered, tobacco-flavored vapes authorized by the FDA.

If the stores cited today had sold combustible cigarettes to their adult customers, they would have faced no FDA penalties.

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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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