Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Team up to Crack Down on Illicit E-Cigarettes 

Vaping products are declining in popularity. Photo: Steve Neavling

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration created a joint task force to crack down on the sale and distribution of illicit electronic cigarettes. 

In an announcement Monday, the agencies said the new task force is aimed at bringing  “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 U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Postal Service are joining the effort. 

“Unauthorized e-cigarettes and vaping products continue to jeopardize the health of Americans – particularly children and adolescents – across the country,” Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said in a statement. “This interagency Task Force is dedicated to protecting Americans by combatting the unlawful sale and distribution of these products. And the establishment of this Task Force makes clear that vigorous enforcement of the tobacco laws is a government-wide priority.” 

The number of youths who report using e-cigarettes have declined from 5.3 million in 2019 to 2.1 million in 2023, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Still, about 10% of high school students and 5.3% of middle school students report they are currently using e-cigarettes. 

The FBI has authorized the sale of 23 specific e-cigarette products and devices, which are the only ones allowed to be marketed and sold in the U.S. 

The FDA has issued more than 1,100 warning letters to manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers for the illicit sale or distribution of unauthorized nicotine products, including e-cigarettes. 

“Curbing the widespread availability of illegal ENDS products is a top priority of the Justice Department’s consumer protection efforts,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch said. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we look forward to advancing aggressive and innovative solutions to the unique and constantly evolving problem of illegal vaping products.” 

The agencies said they are ready to crack down on illicit vapes. 

“The U.S. Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division stands ready to work with our Task Force partners in the seizure of unauthorized e-cigarettes from domestic distributors seeking to sell them unlawfully,” Ronald L. Davis, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, said.

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