The FDA has engaged in a “blitz” of enforcement actions against nearly 200 retailers after two studies published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly uncovered thousands of poisoning cases of children under 5 related to e-cigarette use.

On June 22, the FDA announced that they were taking enforcement actions and issuing warning letters to 189 retailers for selling unauthorized tobacco products. 

The FDA was first put onto the case of two e-cigarette product lines known as Elf Bar and Esco Bars. These disposable e-cigarette brands attracted the agency’s attention when it was discovered that the brands were producing youth-appealing flavors including bubblegum and cotton candy. 

The agency’s suspicions were corroborated by the first study produced by the CDC, which assessed the retail sale numbers of e-cigarettes. The study found that the most popular disposable e-cigarette sold in the U.S. in December 2022 was Elf Bar. Corroborating this was findings in August 2022 by the International Tobacco Survey that found Elf Bar was the most popular brand of e-cigarette among 16-19-year-olds in the United States. 

The second study revealed that the majority of exposure cases reported to U.S. poison-control centers over the past 12 months were among children under the age of 5. Among cases with brand information attached, Elf Bar was cited in the study, more than every other brand combined. 

Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, took a strong stance against these products, which he called “illegal e-cigarettes.” Dr. King implied that the FDA’s actions against retailers should serve as a wake-up call nationwide. ”If they’re waiting for a personal invitation to comply with the law, they might just get it in the form of a warning letter or other action from the FDA,” said Dr. King.