US agencies seize illegal e-cigarettes worth $18 million

By Chris Kirkham

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Customs and Border Protection seized more than $18 million worth of unauthorized e-cigarettes, which included popular brands such as Elf Bar, the FDA said on Thursday.

About 1.4 million units were confiscated in a joint three-day operation in July at a cargo examination site at Los Angeles International Airport, according to the FDA.

Elf Bar was the most commonly used brand among youth e-cigarette users, with 56.7% of middle- and high-school vapers naming it their brand of choice, according to a national survey of youth tobacco use released last month by the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA announcement follows a Reuters report earlier this month detailing how the Chinese vaping firm Heaven Gifts has disregarded U.S. regulations and flooded the market with illegal flavored disposable nicotine products including Elf Bar and Lost Mary.

The FDA said products seized in the July operation included those brands and others, including RELX Pod and IPLAY Max.

Asked for a breakdown of the products seized, an FDA spokesperson referred questions to Customs, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While attempting to smuggle the e-cigarettes, the items were intentionally misdeclared as toys or shoes and listed with incorrect values, according to the FDA.

(Reporting by Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles and Annett Mary Manoj; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Leslie Adler)