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Opinion

FDA Is Blowing Away Georgia’s Vaping Crisis | Opinion

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by Nan Orrock, Georgia Recorder

The United States Congress recently held a hearing where questions were raised about the influx of Chinese-manufactured nicotine vaping products available in the United States today. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf told lawmakers that his agency had just finished a review of 99% of the nation’s 27 million vaping products and thinks the United States needs to enact “an all-of-government approach” to stop youth vaping.

He’s right: thanks mainly to China’s continued importing of illegal flavored disposable vaping products into this country, America’s youth vaping crisis has gotten out of hand, especially here in Georgia.

China has become especially infamous for importing illegal disposable vapes in flavors like cotton candy that have hooked far too many of our children. Nicotine isn’t the only threat in these illegal disposable e-cigarettes, though. Some vaping devices are turning up laced with fentanyl. Tragically, in two separate events within recent months in Georgia, a 13-year-old and a 12-year-old both had near-death experiences because of illegal fentanyl-laced vapes, with one teen likely having serious long-term health consequences.

Georgia schools are attempting to address this problem by adding vape detectors and vape-detecting dog visits to campus. In Congress, legislation co-sponsored by Atlanta Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, the Disposable ENDS Product Enforcement Act of 2023 (H.R.901), is also attempting to crack down on these illegal disposable vapes in kid-friendly flavors that continue to spread throughout the U.S. marketplace.

But now, Califf is turning his “all-of-government” vision to address this issue into reality in a way that may finally address this youth vaping crisis in a meaningful way.

Following his predecessors’ release of an enforcement policy to crack down on illegal vapes sold in the United States — a policy that the FDA said “confirms our commitment to dramatically limit children’s access to certain flavored e-cigarette products we know are so appealing to them” — Califf’s agency recently issued warning letters to some producers and distributors of these illegal products while imposing strict import restrictions on other manufacturers. These actions have made it abundantly clear that the FDA is prioritizing enforcement and I look forward to seeing that promise come to fruition with the removal of these dangerous products from store shelves.

The agency’s efforts in ending illegal flavored disposable vape sales in the U.S., coupled with Congress and local Georgia officials’ actions and activism, are providing hope to thousands of parents here in Georgia who have felt helpless in protecting their children from this true plague of a problem.

In June 2022, it was reported that China’s “electronic cigarette exports will reach $27.82 billion…an increase of 180%” from the previous year. But if Califf and the FDA can finish the job and get illegal flavored disposable vape off American store shelves, the era of foreign manufacturers of illegal vapes profiting off our children’s welfare might soon be over.

This story was written by State Senatory Nan Orrock, a Democrat representing an Atlanta district in the Georgia Senate and contributor to the Georgia Recorder, where this story first appeared.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.