The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission today issued 13 warning letters to companies selling nicotine-containing liquids, or “e-liquids,” used in e-cigarettes that include misleading labeling or advertising, causing the products to appear similar to kid-friendly products, including juice boxes, candy or cookies.
Illegal selling of the products to minors also was cited for several of the manufacturers, distributors and retailers, according to a press release from the agencies.
“No child should be using any tobacco product, and no tobacco products should be marketed in a way that endangers kids — especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they would eat or drink,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in the release. “Looking at these side-by-side comparisons is alarming. It is easy to see how a child could confuse these e-liquid products for something they believe they have consumed before — like a juice box. These are preventable accidents that have the potential to result in serious harm or even death.”
“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we will continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” Gottlieb continued.
According to the release, the warning letters outlined examples of the products being sold through online outlets, including “One Mad Hit Juice Box,” which resembles children’s apple juice boxes, including Tree Top-brand juice boxes; “Vape Heads Sour Smurf Sauce,” resembling War Heads candy; and “V’Nilla Cookies & Milk,” resembling Nilla Wafer and Golden Oreo Cookies.
“Nicotine is highly toxic, and these letters make clear that marketing methods that put kids at risk of nicotine poisoning are unacceptable,” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, said in the release.
The contacted companies have 15 working days to respond, according to requests from the FDA and FTC, and should inform each agency of specific actions taken to address the agencies’ concerns. Seizure or injection might occur if the violations are not corrected, according to the warning letters.
The agencies noted that there has been an increase in poison control center calls and ED visits related to e-liquid poisoning and nicotine exposure, which has coincided with the increased popularity of electronic nicotine devices (ENDS), including e-cigarettes, which contain e-liquids.
Gottlieb noted that under the new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, the FDA has begun taking a series of actions, including the recent target of JUUL products.
In April, Gottlieb revealed a large-scale undercover crackdown on the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems in stores and online and requesting documents on marketing and research conducted by manufacturers to better understand child and adolescent use. The Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan specifically focuses on ENDS.
In July, the FDA announced a multiyear plan that could limit the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.