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Collins, Colleagues Urge DOJ, FDA Interagency Task Force to Crack Down on Illicit E-Cigarette Sales and Distribution

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins and a bipartisan group of her colleagues sent a letter to top officials at the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products requesting more information about the recently announced interagency task force to combat the illicit sale and distribution of unauthorized e-cigarettes. The letter also reiterates the need to restore the premarket review process established by federal law. The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“We appreciate the recent announcement that a federal task force has been established to enhance enforcement against these illegal and dangerous products through collaboration among the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Department of Justice (DOJ); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Federal Trade Commission,” the Senators wrote.  “We remain deeply concerned about the inconsistency between FDA and DOJ’s public statements that there are only 27 FDA-authorized e-cigarettes and the reality that thousands of unauthorized e-cigarettes in kid friendly flavors, such as Blue Razz Ice, Strawberry Watermelon Bubble Gum, and Red Bull Strawberry, are readily available for purchase.”

“It is clear that the very first order of business for the task force should be to restore the law's premarket regime and enforce the removal of all unauthorized e-cigarettes from the market,” the Senators continued.

While e-cigarette use among young people has declined in recent years, the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that about 2.1 million youths reported currently using e-cigarettes. It remains a serious public health threat as 10 percent of high school students and almost five percent of middle school students reported currently using e-cigarettes, and more than one in four of those e-cigarette users reported daily e-cigarette use. 

On June 10, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the creation of a federal multi-agency task force to combat the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes. Along with the FDA and the Justice Department, the task force will bring together multiple law enforcement partners to coordinate and streamline efforts to bring all available criminal and civil tools to bear against the illegal distribution and sale of e-cigarettes responsible for nicotine addiction among American youth. 

The letter also calls for FDA to complete its long-overdue review of pre-market tobacco product applications from e-cigarette manufacturers.  Since FDA missed a court-imposed September 9, 2021, deadline more than 33 months ago, approximately 2.1 million children may have picked up vaping.  FDA missed another deadline to complete its review of certain products by June 30, 2024.  Under the Tobacco Control Act (TCA), e-cigarette companies are required to obtain authorization from FDA prior to entering the market, which the agency has neglected to properly enforce.

The complete text of the letter can be read here.