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Number of e-cigarette devices sold in U.S. triples over three-year period

Teens' use of vape devices is increasing, and they're not always aware if nicotine is in the mix.
Jane Khomi
Getty Images
Teens' use of vape devices is increasing, and they're not always aware if nicotine is in the mix.

The number of electronic cigarette devices sold in the United States has nearly tripled despite the Food and Drug Administration's three-year effort to crack down on kid-friendly flavors.

The increase has been largely driven by a wave of cheap, disposable devices imported from China, according to sales data obtained by The Associated Press. Most are sold in fruit and candy flavors that can appeal to teenagers. All are technically illegal, but they continue to flow into U.S. ports.

The trend underscores the FDA’s inability to control the vaping market previously dominated by Juul and other reusable e-cigarettes. The agency recently sent warning letters to dozens of retailers across the U.S. selling several brands of disposable e-cigarettes.

Once a niche market, cheaper disposables made up 40% of the roughly $7 billion retail market for e-cigarettes last year, according to data from analytics firm IRI obtained by the AP. The company’s proprietary data collects barcode scanner sales from convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers.

More than 5,800 unique disposable products are now being sold in numerous flavors and formulations, according to the data, up 1,500% from 365 in early 2020. That’s when the FDA effectively banned all flavors except menthol and tobacco from cartridge-based e-cigarettes like Juul, the rechargeable device blamed for sparking a nationwide surge in underage vaping.

But the FDA’s policy, formulated under President Donald Trump, excluded disposables, prompting many teens to simply switch from Juul to the newer flavored products.