US Authorities Seize 1.4 Million Illegal E-Cigarettes From China

Efthymis Oraiopoulos
By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
December 16, 2023US News
US Authorities Seize 1.4 Million Illegal E-Cigarettes From China
Boxes of Elf Bar seized during a joint federal operation that resulted in the seizure of 1.4 million units of illegal e-cigarettes, in Los Angeles. (FDA)

Federal authorities in Los Angeles have seized 1.4 million units of illegal e-cigarettes shipped from China.

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), working with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), found the illegal e-cigarettes at a cargo examination site at Los Angeles International Airport

The e-cigarettes were worth $18 million, according to a Dec. 14 media release about the operation.

Many were unauthorized flavors from the “Elf Bar” brand which is popular with young people.

The seizures were part of a three-day joint operation, which resulted in the seizure of 41 shipments—all from China—containing illegal e-cigarettes.

“The FDA is committed to continuing to stem the flow of illegal e-cigarettes into the United States,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf.

“Unscrupulous companies try everything they can to bring unauthorized, youth-appealing tobacco products into the country. The FDA will remain vigilant, and together with our federal partners, stop these imports before they make it into the hands of our nation’s youth.”

In preparation for the three-day operation, the authorities worked for months to review shipping invoices and identify potentially violative incoming shipments.

The shipments were mis-declared as items such as toys and shoes and listed with incorrect values.

Youth Who Vape

According to a 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, most U.S. youth who vape use disposable flavored products.

According to an earlier survey, 11.3 percent of high school students (1.72 million) and 2.8 percent (320,000) of middle-school students reported using e-cigarettes, with 27.6 percent of high school students saying they used the vaping device daily and 8.3 percent of middle-school students saying they used e-cigarettes daily.

E-cigarette aerosol (sometimes called “vapor”) contains harmful chemicals, including acrolein and acetaldehyde, which can damage the lungs, according to the FDA.

E-cigarettes do not produce visible smoke, which makes them popular among youth. They also have high amounts of the addictive chemical nicotine.

“Those shamelessly attempting to smuggle illegal e-cigarettes, particularly those that appeal to youth, into this country should take heed of today’s announcement,” said Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“Federal agencies are on to their antics and will not hesitate to take action. The significant value of these seized products is also a sobering reminder to these bad actors that their time and money would be better spent complying with the law,” he added.

NTD Photo
Funky Republic e-cigarette seized during a joint federal operation that resulted in the seizure of more than $18 million of illegal e-cigarettes in Los Angeles. (FDA)

The FDA is placing certain firms on an FDA import alert red list over e-cigarettes. This allows the FDA to detain products without conducting a full inspection at the time of entry, something done in May for the Elf Bar brand.

23 Tobacco-Flavored E-Cigarette Products Allowed

To date, the FDA has authorized 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products and devices that may be lawfully sold in the United States.

“The distribution and/or sale of unauthorized new tobacco products are subject to compliance and enforcement action,” the media release said.

As of December, the FDA has issued over 650 warning letters to firms for manufacturing, selling, or distributing new tobacco products that lacked marketing authorization from the FDA, including flavored disposable e-cigarettes and brands popular among youth.

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