Over the past few years, a new threat to Alabama’s youth has emerged in the form of illegal disposable vapes marketed to children in kid-friendly flavors and colorful packaging has been popping up in non-compliant smoke shops and stores across the country.
Manufacturers of these popular flavored disposable vape brands such as Kangvape, HYPPE, and Elf Bar have exploited loopholes in the Food and Drug Administration’s rules to distribute their illegal products all over the country despite restrictions.
While cigarette smoking among young people continues to decline to its lowest levels ever, these illegal, disposable vapes in candy and fruity flavors like “Rainbow Cotton Candy” have been growing in popularity among underage consumers. While we can be grateful that cigarette smoking among teenagers has declined to historic lows, we must focus on this new scourge of illegal, flavored disposable vapes and the manufacturers and merchants of these illegal products.
As the state’s premier trade association representing over 350 petroleum marketers and convenience store operators who employ thousands of Alabamans in more than 4,000 locations across Alabama, we are diligent in ensuring only legal products are on Alabama’s store shelves.
We are committed to assisting our members conduct commerce with a conscience and ensure they can operate their businesses in full compliance with local, state and federal laws. This means advocating for policies and regulations to protect their businesses and their consumers, especially our next generation of Alabamans. We are also focused on the dissemination of the rules, regulations and legislation which affects our members as well as providing for the educational needs of our members at the state level.
We applaud the FDA’s recent actions on a handful of retailers and distributors in the form of warning letters, but they can and must do more than just send threatening letters. The FDA must improve communication with distributors and retailers and publish an updated registry of illegal disposable vape products. They must also allocate more resources to law enforcement agencies and code-enforcement departments to actively enforce regulations and conduct regular inspections of applicable retail stores and distribution channels.
This registry and enforcement activity would be invaluable for us in Alabama because we’ve already taken the first steps to help protect consumers from illegal vape products.
In 2021, we supported the Alabama Legislature legislation to create a registry of compliant and legal vapor products. This year, we supported HB319 that would have provided more resources for state and local law enforcement to actively protect children in our state such as imposing fines against non-compliant retailers that advertise or sell prohibited products, including these illegal disposable flavored vapes that are directly marketed to children. Unfortunately, HB319 did not pass but we remain committed to work with lawmakers in Montgomery to get legislation like it over the finish line in 2024.
We know that we can’t solely rely on the federal government, especially the FDA, to get these illegal products off our shelves even though they created this illicit market through their actions. But they do play an important role and must do more than writing letters.
Every day the Agency does not act, we fear we are risking the public safety and health of Alabamans of all ages. The P&CMA and our members stand ready to assist the FDA, the Alabama Legislature or any lawmaker who wants to work with us to get these illegal products off Alabama’s store shelves.