Companies that make disposable vaping products are taking advantage of a loophole in a Trump-era FDA rule to import flavored disposable e-cigarettes from China, according to sales data obtained by the Associated Press.
Since 2020, the number of vaping devices sold in the United States has almost tripled to more than 9,000, fueled almost entirely by unauthorized disposable e-cigarettes made in China.
However, according to the FDA’s records, about 99 percent of companies requesting to sell e-cigarettes are rejected, with the FDA only authorizing a few aimed at adult smokers.
According to the Associated Press, the difference between the FDA’s records and reality demonstrates the lack of control the FDA has over the vaping market since the Trump administration cracked down on kid-friendly flavored products.
While disposable e-cigarettes in sweet and fruity flavors are technically illegal in the United States, the influx of such products from China shows that the FDA’s regulatory control is failing to stop them.
Each month, hundreds of new varieties of flavored disposable e-cigarettes are making their way to store shelves. And because companies copy each other’s designs, the line between real and counterfeit disposable devices has become blurred.
A new product can be launched simply by sending a logo and flavor request to Chinese manufacturers who then deliver tens of thousands of disposable e-cigarettes in just weeks.
In 2022, cheap disposable e-cigs made up 40 percent of the $7 billion e-cigarette market, based on analytics by the firm IRI, which collects barcode scanner sales from gas stations, convenience stores, and other retailers.
There are currently over 5,800 different disposable e-cigarettes sold in the US, a 1,500 percent increase from the 365 products sold in early 2020 when the Trump FDA imposed a ban on all flavored cartridge-based vaping products except tobacco and menthol. But fearing blowback from voters, the Trump White House exempted disposable e-cigarettes from the ban.
While the makers of cartridge-based vaping products, like Juul, faced flatlining sales last year, disposable e-cigarettes generated $2.74 billion in sales last year.
And because the products are made in China, the overhead costs are low, with Chinese manufacturers selling the disposables for as little as $2 a device when ordering a minimum of 10,000 devices. These disposable e-cigarettes typically retail for between $10 and $30 apiece.