In April 2022, Congress moved to give the FDA authority to restrict disposable flavored e-cigarettes popular with children.
Almost a year later, the agency still hasn’t.
Now a convenience store selling dozens of flavors of Puff Bars and Hyde Bars – including Watermelon Chewing Gum and Strawberry Kiwi – is located just 250 yards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters. in the Washington, DC area.
The White Oak convenience store is about 200 yards from the FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and offers a variety of flavored disposable e-cigarettes, including Puff Bars, Elf Bars, and True Bars.
The FDA sent a warning letter to Puff Bar in October, but it’s unclear whether it didn’t exercise the same authority it used to ban flavored Juul pods from store shelves a while ago. years old.
The back and forth on flavored e-cigarettes has left the FDA playing catch-up as manufacturers find new workarounds to avoid pulling their product from the market.
A convenience store selling dozens of flavors of Puff bars and Hyde bars — including watermelon chewing gum and strawberry kiwi — is located just 250 years from FDA headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area
The store offers a variety of flavored disposable e-cigs, including puff bars, Elf bars and True bars
In early 2020, the FDA under President Trump banned flavored e-cigarette cartridges like Juul pods, which upset young vaping smokers around the world. The move came after a virus scare over “popcorn lung” that some attributed to vaping.
This ban did not prohibit the sale of disposable e-cigarettes, giving rise to popular flavored vapes like Elf Bar and Puff Bar, which children and young adults then turned to.
Puff Bar has grown in popularity and profits, reaching over $170 million in sales in 2020
In July 2020, the FDA ordered the removal of Puff Bar from the market, saying it had not obtained the necessary clearance to be sold as tobacco products that appeared after 2016 had to obtain clearance from the FDA before being put on sale.
But in 2021, Puff Bar found a workaround and was back on the market. It came with a new synthetic nicotine formula that put it beyond the reach of FDA tobacco regulators. Other products have followed Puff Bar’s lead.
In April 2022, Congress voted on a bipartisan basis to close the loophole and give the FDA authority to regulate synthetic nicotine.
Meanwhile, youth use of e-cigarettes has declined from an all-time high, but use of disposable vaping products has increased nearly 2,000% since 2019, according to the National Youth Tobacco Study. from the CDC.
More flavored disposable vapes pictured behind the counter
The White Oak convenience store is approximately 660 feet from the FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland
In 2022, 14.1% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes regularly, or some 2.55 million children. Flavored e-cigarettes still dominate the market among children – more than half of young e-cigarette users report using the disposable type.
According to the CDC, Puff Bar was the brand of choice for nearly one-third of middle and high school e-cigarette users.
“These numbers confirm that the e-cigarette epidemic in our country is far from over,” said Linda Neff, chief of the epidemiology branch of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, according to NBC News. “Our work is far from over.
“What is even more concerning is the frequency of use,” she added. “Of those who currently use e-cigarettes, more than 1 in 4 use them daily.”
Nearly half of high school teens said they vaped daily.
Meanwhile, a recent study found that in some cases, the nicotine content of certain disposable products is mislabeled, with a concentration sometimes 1.5 times higher than that indicated on the label.
A single disposable device can contain the nicotine from an entire pack of cigarettes. The Mojo brand states that its product is “equivalent to approximately 20 cigarettes”.
As of July 13, 2022, synthetic nicotine tobacco products are supposed to have a marketing order from the FDA to be sold, but many such products are still on the market.
An FDA spokesperson noted that the agency in October sent a warning letter to Puff Bar for selling and receiving its products in the United States without marketing authorization and requested a response within 15 days. But as the company notes on its website, the products are still fully on the market.
“Failure to promptly remedy any violation exposes the manufacturer to regulatory action such as a civil penalty, product seizure, and/or injunction,” the FDA said at the time.
‘No, Puff Bars are not banned. No, they are not illegal to buy. No they are not abandoned – and no they are not gone,’ Puff Bar wrote on its website.
On its website, the company sells dozens of kid-friendly flavors – banana ice cream, sour apple, lemon zest.
The FDA also said it had taken action against the Hyde brand, issuing marketing denial orders for 32 Hyde e-cigarettes. But flavors like Strawberry Guava Mango Ice Cream are still listed on Hyde’s website.
“The FDA remains vigilant in market surveillance, both by reviewing applications submitted for the marketing of e-cigarette products and by using our compliance and enforcement resources to remove illegal products from the market, including products disposable,” a spokesperson said.