CBP says they seized over $18m worth of illegal and non-FDA approved vapes

20 December 2023- Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), announced the seizure of approximately 1.4 million units of unauthorized e-cigarette products, including brands such as Elf Bar, which according to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, is the most commonly used brand among youth e-cigarette users. The estimated retail value of the seized products totals more than $18 million. The seizures were part of a three-day joint operation, which resulted in the seizure of 41 shipments 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, M.D. “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.”

The FDA and CBP conducted the joint operation at a cargo examination site at Los Angeles International Airport, where the team examined incoming shipments for potentially violative items. In preparation for the three-day operation, the team worked for months to review shipping invoices, identify potentially violative incoming shipments, and complete other investigative work that led to this successful operation. Once the merchandise is forfeited to the government, it will be disposed of in accordance with the law; in the case of unauthorized new tobacco products, that generally means they will be destroyed. 

Elf Bar, the most popular disposable vape amongst youth, was recently deemed illegal by FDA regulators and all future imports were subject to seizure by FDA and Customs and Border Patrol Officers. This hasn’t stopped many stores from selling them, especially with a backlog of merchandise already sitting on their sales counters. They have been banned because of not only their flavors, which come in tastes like cotton candy, fruits, and other sweet confectionaries that are incredibly popular with young people, but also because of where they’re coming from; China.

Upon examining shipments, all of which originated in China, the team found various brands of illegal flavored disposable e-cigarette products. According to recently released 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data, disposable e-cigarettes are the most commonly used e-cigarette type among U.S. youth and nearly nine out of 10 current e-cigarette users (89.4%) used flavored e-cigarettes, with fruit flavors being the most popular, followed by candy, desserts, or other sweets; mint; and menthol.

In addition to Elf Bar, among the seized e-cigarettes were EB Create products; earlier this year, the manufacturer of Elf Bar began marketing the product under the names “EB Design” and “EB Create.” Other seized brands included Lost Mary, Funky Republic, RELX Pod and IPLAY Max, among others. In an attempt to evade duties and detection, many of these unauthorized e-cigarettes were intentionally mis-declared as various items such as toys or shoes and listed with incorrect values.