Skip to main content
Press Release

DOJ, FDA Illicit E-Cigarette Task Force Marks Critical Step in Combatting Youth Vaping Crisis

Statement of Kathy Crosby, Truth Initiative CEO and President

Download statement

The announcement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the creation of a federal multi-agency task force to crack down on the sale of illegal e-cigarettes marks an important step in protecting our nation’s youth from the dangers of these illicit youth-appealing products. Over the past several years, illegal e-cigarettes have flooded the market, with fruity flavors and easy access driving youth initiation — and, ultimately, nicotine addiction. Truth Initiative research shows that between 2017 and 2022, disposable e-cigarettes nearly tripled in nicotine strength, quintupled in e-liquid capacity, and dropped in price by nearly 70%. While we applaud the DOJ and FDA for their decisive action, retailers also have a responsibility to protect young people and must immediately remove illegal e-cigarettes from their shelves. To date, the FDA has only authorized 23 tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes. Brands like JUUL and Vuse, which are popular with young people, also remain on the market while their applications are still under FDA review. Together, these not yet reviewed brands, along with the illegal products, pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of young people. 

Stores sell thousands of unauthorized e-cigarettes. Illicit products are also sold online and through social media platforms like TikTok, further ramping up their appeal. A study published in Tobacco Control earlier this year showed that “discreet shipping” on TikTok enables the sale of e-cigarettes to youth. This practice, which hides e-cigarettes in candy, cosmetics and beauty items, is just one of the latest ways vendors target young people through social media and online platforms to make tobacco products more appealing and accessible. In addition, a separate study also published this year in Tobacco Control finds that most online e-cigarette shops rely on age self-certification, which youth can easily exploit to access these products.

The result is that youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health threat, with the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey showing more than 2 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, with one in four vaping daily. Not only is nicotine harmful to developing brains, but the high rates of daily use are also suggestive of a nicotine addiction. As the tobacco industry continues to flood the market with illicit high-nicotine, cheap and youth-appealing flavored products like cotton candy and gummy bear at the expense of young people’s physical and mental health, retailers bear a pivotal responsibility in curbing youth e-cigarette use in their communities. We urge all retailers to act swiftly and in compliance with these regulations to ensure a safer future for our youth.

Download statement