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FDA Launches Crackdown On E-Cigarette Retailers

Federal officials called it a blitz — “the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history” in response to concerns that e-cigarette use has become an “epidemic” among youths.

After a nationwide undercover operation aimed at identifying stores selling e-cigarettes to people under 18 years old, the agency sent more than 1,300 fines and warning letters to businesses that it said violated the rules.

Eight of those letters went to businesses in New York state: two in Buffalo; one in Getzville in Erie County; two on Long Island; one in Rockland County; and two in New York City.

Lori Mastrodonato’s Wise Guy Smoke Shop in Gates was not one of those named in the FDA’s letters. She said the enforcement is necessary — in particular, for a certain brand of e-cigarettes called “Juul.”

“It’s very dangerous for kids. A pack of cigarettes is 24 milligrams. These Juuls are at 60 milligrams, so it’s extremely high in nicotine, and it’s causing them to become more addicted.”

The FDA singled out Juul in its press release, saying that the company’s products are especially popular among, and dangerous for, high school students.

Mastrodonato said Juul is a popular e-cigarette brand and a big seller at her store, but that she is careful about who she allows to buy it. “When you work here, you just get a sense of who’s buying for themselves and who’s buying for someone else. If we think someone’s buying for someone else, we deny the purchase,” she said. “It’s not uncommon.”

The FDA requested that Juul and four other e-cigarette brands submit plans to “address widespread youth access and use of their products.” If the companies do not respond to the agency’s satisfaction, the FDA said, it will consider removing their products from stores.

Juul said in a statement that the company is committed to preventing underage use of its product, and that it will work with the FDA to keep its merchandise out of the hands of minors.