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March 7, 2024
3 min to read

Senators Threaten C-Stores Selling Disposable Vapes

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Jim McDonald

A group of Democratic U.S. senators, led by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, has sent letters to 22 major convenience store retailers and distributors threatening them with legal consequences for selling vaping products that have not received FDA authorization.

The action was announced in a March 7 press release from Durbin—a longtime foe of vaping. The other signatories are Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Bernie Sanders (VT), and Ron Wyden (OR).

Recipients of the letters include retailers like 7-Eleven, Circle K, Wawa and Pilot. The senators’ goal is to pressure retailers to clear their shelves of popular disposable vapes, and sell only the six available vaping devices authorized by the FDA, and their tobacco-flavored refills.

Selling only authorized vapes would be commercial suicide for the retailers. Those six devices and their refills—all produced by subsidiaries of big tobacco companies—together account for less than five percent of the convenience store vaping market.

"The senators join a weird alliance of interests at war against disposable vapes that includes the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Marlboro manufacturer Altria Group."

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“We write to draw your attention to distributor and retailer responsibilities under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act,” the letters say, “and to specifically highlight apparent widespread violations of federal law prohibiting the sale and distribution of unauthorized tobacco products at convenience stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets across the nation.

“Under the law, no tobacco product—including electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes or vaping devices, including those containing nicotine not made or derived from tobacco—may legally enter the market for sale without having first received authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the product is 'appropriate for the protection of public health.'”

The senators don’t explain that thousands of products not on the FDA-authorized list are still under review by the agency, and others have received stays in federal courts protecting them from FDA enforcement. Dozens of vape manufacturers have challenged FDA marketing denial orders (MDOs) in court, with many cases still pending.

The senators join a weird alliance of interests at war against disposable vapes that includes the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Marlboro manufacturer Altria Group. Along with publicity-hungry politicians, disposables are under attack in the U.S. by the FDA, tobacco control organizations, major tobacco companies, and state legislators acting on behalf of tobacco companies.

Disposable vapes began to gain popularity in 2020, after the FDA made flavored pod vapes an enforcement priority. Since then, the flavored disposable vape market has grown rapidly, threatening sales of big tobacco-owned vape brands like Vuse and NJOY—and now even threatening cigarette sales, the tobacco industry’s bread and butter.

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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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