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Vape News and Reviews

Sun Jan 07 2024

Surge of Unauthorized Vapes Flooding Into US Ports

Shipments of illegal electronic cigarettes keep rapidly rising at American ports of entry, particularly in Southern California. But gaping regulatory loopholes allow thousands of new unauthorized vaping products to still flood into the country from Chinese manufacturers.

This exponentially expanding influx feeds the chaotic $7 billion US vape market. It also enables rampant teen usage of flavored disposable e-cigarettes, deeply concerning parents and public health experts.

Over 11,500 Vape Products Now Sold in US

Industry sales data shows over 11,500 unique vaping SKUs currently sold in American shops - a 27% jump from 9,000 back in June. Nearly all represent new disposable e-cigarette models.

Through November this year, disposables generated $3.2 billion in US sales revenue alone. That equals 98% of total sales for Chinese vape giant Fume in Q3 2023.

Hundreds of Vape Shipments Recently Refused Entry

Per an FDA database, US customs officials "refused" entry to 148 vape shipments in December 2022 - mostly from China. Nearly all cargo holds rejected consisted of unauthorized flavored disposable e-cigs.

That refusal tally this year already exceeds double the 118 total shipping containers refused in all of 2021. Hundreds more will still likely arrive to overwhelm port inspectors.

"FDA whacks one product and then the manufacturers get around it and the kids get around it,” says Stanford psychologist Bonnie Halpern-Felsher. “It’s too easy to change your product a little bit and just relaunch it.”

She says keeping educational materials current with the latest teen vaping trends proves "constantly" challenging as new brands and styles rapidly emerge.

Vape Companies Quickly Adjust to Import Bans

When the FDA banned numerous models from Chinese vape firm Fume in July 2022, sales initially dipped. But the company quickly pivoted to launching redesigned products not on the agency's import ban list.

Fume thereby skirted restrictions to post $42 million in Q3 US sales - 98% from untouched newer models. Illicit vape producers also mislabel shipments as shoes or toys to avoid scrutiny and get cargo past inspectors.

Teen Vaping Rates Stay Dangerously High

Two million US teens currently vape, with most preferring flavored disposable models like Fume's Elf Bar. Yet the FDA has approved very few vapes for adult smokers trying to quit.

The agency aims to complete outstanding safety reviews for major company applications this year. But bureaucratic delays could push the process into 2024.

That lengthy timeframe spurs arguments that the FDA's entire current regulatory model proves outdated and ineffective. Rapid proliferation of unauthorized vapes far outpaces the agency's capacity to catch up.

Public Health Groups Demand FDA Ban Disposables

Deep frustration with the backlogged application process led health advocates to successfully sue the FDA to speed up reviews. But another potential remedy would involve banning entire categories of products rather than individual models.

"If we continue down this path that we’re on, we’re just going to have new and continuing generations of young people addicted to nicotine," warns Halpern-Felsher.

So she and other experts demand the FDA prohibit all flavored disposable e-cigs to curb rampant teen usage. The few tobacco-flavored products currently FDA-approved sell extremely poorly in comparison.