Crime

published : 2023-08-22

Dangerous Disguises: School Vapes Masquerading as Supplies Prompt Warnings and Concerns

Illegal Kid-Tempting Vapes Surge into U.S. Amidst Back-to-School Season: Authorities and FDA Taking Action

A concerned parent discussing e-cigarette dangers with their child. Selective focus on the vapes disguised as everyday items like highlighters and pens, placed on the table. Captured with a Nikon D850.

As a new academic year commences, concerns escalate over a subtle, hazardous trend - vapes disguised as school supplies seeping into the U.S from China. Parents and educators are urged to maintain vigilant as these disguised drugs can be deceptive in their appearance, mimicking innocuous items such as highlighters.

Unsettlingly, some of these highlighter vapes are launching in youth-enticing flavors like mango, strawberry banana, and blueberry ice; a calculated marketing ploy. Beyond highlighters, these nefarious vapes are morphing into everyday items like USB drives, pens, and even phones.

Long-time patrol sergeant, Stefan Bjes, provides critical insight making a compelling case about the widespread availability of these vapes in several stores and smoke shops across the U.S. He implicates, 'These disposable vapes, tempting children with a selection of flavors, are illegal in the U.S but have found their way into nationwide stores via criminal trafficking.'

Bjes underscores the severity of the situation linking these illegal vapes not only to nicotine addiction, lung damage, gum diseases and oral cancers, but also to other concealed risks. The surge in these vapes, primarily unilateral imports from China, are unregulated and therefore could contain dangerous substances causing long-lasting harm to the users.

A close-up image of various illegal vapes, casting ominous shadows to suggest danger. Interspersed are flavors like mango, strawberry banana, and blueberry ice. Image captured with a Fujifilm X-T4.

According to recent findings, e-cigarette sales have skyrocketed by almost 50% from 2020 to 2022, indicating a burgeoning issue. 'As these products are unregulated, their nicotine content or other potentially harmful substances remains unknown', warns Bjes. 'We have discovered that these very manufacturers are also involved in trafficking fentanyl to the U.S.'

Cognizant of these alarming revelations, Bjes urges parents to instigate open dialogues with their children about the perils of these disposable, flavored vapes. He also advocates for robust government regulation and intervention. 'The FDA needs to demonstrate resilience in ensuring these perilous, illegal vapes are swiftly removed from shelves with coordinated efforts from state and local authorities,' insists Bjes.

In response, an FDA spokesperson maintains, 'We are dedicating our efforts to safeguard our youth against e-cigarettes and will continue to hold companies culpable for illegally selling these products, particularly those that unabashedly target youth.' As of now, only 23 lawful tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products have received authorization from the FDA, but the fight continues.

As of mid-2023, the FDA has issued approximately 600 warning letters to firms for unauthorized manufacturing, selling and/or distribution of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The agency expressed its commitment to taking enforcement measures against unlawful distribution or sales of such products. Actions could escalate to injunctions, seizures and/or civil money penalties if companies fail to rectify stated violations promptly.

Stefan Bjes, a uniformed patrol sergeant, seriously addressing the camera while holding an e-cigarette and an FDA warning letter, showing his commitment to the issue. Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

It's not just the FDA pushing for change. Medical studies corroborate these warnings too. A recent investigation published in BMJ Journals described disposable e-cigarettes as 'bigger, stronger, and cheaper' with elevated levels of 'e-liquid' and nicotine. The report confirms, 'Nicotine is a critically addictive substance triggering the use of combustible tobacco products and making it difficult to quit.'

Moreover, it highlights the detrimental health effects of nicotine, particularly on the youth whose brain development can be severely impacted. It has been found that nicotine use can damage blood vessels and has been linked to increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Even with all these revelations, the exact nicotine content in these vapes or other harmful substances remains unknowable.

Given the surge in e-cigarette sales of nearly 50% between 2020 and 2022, this brings the crisis to the forefront. 'Parents ought to remain vigilant to protect their children from the dangers of these illegal vapes and ensure local authorities are taking the necessary actions to eliminate them from store shelves,' concludes Bjes.