E-Cigarette liquid packaged like candy leads to FTC, FDA warnings

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E-Liquids Misleadingly Labeled or Advertised as Food Products
E-Liquids Misleadingly Labeled or Advertised as Food Products Credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

U.S. officials are intensifying their crackdown on e-cigarette products that they say are geared to entice children.

The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters Tuesday to companies that make and sell the liquids used in e-cigarettes, warning them for using false and misleading labeling and advertising. The nicotine products resemble juice boxes, whip-cream canisters and well-known candy and cookie packages like Sour Patch Kids and Nilla Wafers.

Below, a closer look at some of the brands cited by regulators, and how their packaging looks like mainstream food and beverage brands:

The move follows an FDA sting operation that resulted in 40 warning letters last week to retailers that sold kids Juul e-cigarettes, the latest craze in underage tobacco use.

The FDA has given e-cigarette makers extra time to comply with certain e-cigarette regulations and is attempting to rein in youth use while it learns more about the products. Antismoking advocates have criticized the agency for not moving to ban flavors in tobacco products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he wants to take a balanced approach to help adults who enjoy the flavors switch from regular cigarettes to vaping.

"Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren't putting children in harm's way or enticing youth use, and we'll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion," Gottlieb said in a statement. The agency plans "a series of escalating actions" as part of a new plan to prevent youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said.

According to National Poison Data System data, there were 8,269 e-cigarette and liquid nicotine exposures among children younger than 6 between January 2012 and April 2017, the FDA said.

One of the warning letters sent Tuesday was to Las Vegas-based Omnia E-Liquid, which sells colorfully packaged Twirly Pop e-liquid online that's delivered with a multicolor lollipop. Accidental ingestion of half a teaspoon may be enough to be fatal for the average 2-year-old, according to the warning letter. Omnia also sold the product to someone under 18, which is illegal for any tobacco product.

The companies have 15 days to respond to the FDA.

-Bloomberg News

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