House representatives are requesting details from government officials about measures being taken to prevent the recent surge of child-friendly e-cigarettes coming from China.
The newly formed congressional committee on U.S.-China relations has sent a request to leaders of the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, bringing attention to the widespread distribution of illegal vaping products.
According to the letter, the Associated Press has reported that there has been a significant increase in the number of disposable e-cigarettes on the market in the past few years. These products are primarily made in China and are available in flavors such as watermelon and gummy bear.
The FDA has deemed these products to be unlawful. In order to sell e-cigarettes in the United States, companies must obtain approval from the FDA first. However, many products from China have not followed this requirement. The agency has only approved a small number of tobacco-flavored vapes for use by adult smokers.
In May, the organization urged customs officials to prohibit the import of Elf Bar, a compact and vibrant vaping tool that is highly popular among teenagers.
According to the AP, the makers of Elf Bar have found a way to avoid the ban by changing the names of their products. These items are still easily accessible in convenience stores and vape shops.
The bipartisan letter, signed by 12 committee members including Chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and ranking Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, urges for immediate action to be taken in collaboration with Customs and Border Protection to resolve this pressing issue in a timely manner.
A task force was formed in the beginning of this year to address Chinese policies that may negatively impact the American economy. Relations between the two nations have been escalating for some time, leading to reciprocal actions on trade between China and the U.S.
The committee’s investigation is happening as the situation regarding teenage vaping is getting better. According to a recent government survey, the number of high school students using e-cigarettes went down from 14% in 2022 to 10% last month.
However, the number of students who vape remains over 2.1 million. Over fifty percent of them report using Elf Bar, which is twice the usage of any other brand.
The FDA’s tobacco center has increased efforts to combat the sale of illegal e-cigarettes after receiving a critical evaluation of their past performance earlier this year. The agency’s report recommended collaborating with other federal organizations to remove unauthorized e-cigarettes from the market.
The leaders of the FDA have noted that they depend on the Justice Department to take legal action against vaping companies that have been identified by tobacco regulators. However, there are situations where prosecutors may choose not to pursue charges for a variety of reasons.
In their correspondence, legislators specifically inquire about the capabilities and resources of the head of the consumer protection branch at the Department of Justice in handling legal cases related to vapor products referred by the FDA.
Politicians are inquiring about over seven questions by January 15th.
Connect with Matthew Perrone on X by following his handle: @AP_FDAwriter.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group provides support for the Associated Press Health and Science Department. The AP is fully responsible for all of its content.