As the recently retired Executive Director of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, I know how hard law enforcement officers across our state work to enforce laws and keep communities safe. But, when it comes to fighting the illegal sale of disposable e-cigarettes, our public safety officers need help from the federal government.
The challenges of fighting the illegal sales of these products stem from a loophole created in early 2020 when the Trump Administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued enforcement guidance that banned reusable flavored cartridge-based vaping products but failed to extend that ban to disposable flavored vaping products. Non-compliant companies like Elf Bar, Breeze Smoke, and Hyype seized this opportunity and switched to making and selling disposable e-cigarettes in youth-enticing flavors such as “Gummy Teddy” and “Rainbow Cotton Candy.”
To no one’s surprise, America’s youth also switched to using these unregulated flavored disposable products. In fact, youth usage of disposable e-cigarettes is up more than 2,000% since 2019.
As of August 2023, the FDA has sent warning letters to approximately 600 retailers and manufacturers for making and/or distributing illegal tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. These letters are intended to crack down on illegal sales of disposable e-cigarettes that are popular with young people, including young Nevadans. While I applaud the FDA for taking action to get illegal disposable flavored e-cigarettes off the shelves, it’s essential that the Biden-Harris Administration enforce the warning letters they send.
According to the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative, “the current federal regulatory regime around e-cigarettes has created conditions allowing disposable e-cigarette manufacturers to provide customers with products that are bigger, stronger, and cheaper than ever.”
The popularity of these products, designed with flavors and packaging that appeal to teens, has led to illegally imported and unregulated disposable vape products being easily accessible around Nevada. Because these flavored disposable vape products are illegal and unregulated, we also don’t really know what’s in them. In June, two students from Bellvue, Washington, were hospitalized after using vape pens “which either contained or were laced with fentanyl.”
Bigger, stronger, cheaper e-cigarettes that can possibly adulterated with fentanyl? More must be done to get these products off the shelves and out of the hands of Nevada’s youth.
Despite the warnings they received, non-compliant disposable e-cigarette companies continue to sell their unauthorized products. For example, Breeze Smoke received a warning letter from the FDA more than two months ago; however, the company still provides maps to shops where its products are sold and seeks authorized distributors on its website.
Nevadans need our members of Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to do all they can to urge the FDA to step up enforcement and ensure law enforcement has the resources they need to get these disposable vapes in kid-enticing flavors off Nevada store shelves. It is paramount that the Biden-Harris administration and Nevada’s congressional delegation push the FDA to ramp up enforcement to remove illegal e-cigarettes from the market once and for all.
Rick McCann is the retired Executive Director of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers.