CDC & FDA: E-Cigarette Sales Up Nearly 50%, Calls to Poison Control Up 100%

Published: June 27, 2023

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Thursday announcing e-cigarette sales rose 46.6% over the last three years and were largely driven by fruity or menthol-flavored products.

According to the report, which includes figures from the CDC’s analysis of data collected by a market research firm, e-cigarette sales went from 15.5 million in Jan. 2020 to 22.7 million in Dec. 2022. During that same timeframe, the number of e-cigarette brands rose from 184 to 269 — an increase of nearly 50%.

“The surge in total e-cigarette sales during 2020-2022 was driven by non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette sales, such as menthol, which dominates the prefilled cartridge market, and fruit and candy flavors, which lead the disposable e-cigarette market,” Fatma Romeh, lead author of the CDC’s market analysis, wrote in a statement.

Romeh’s statement also cited data published last year from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found more than 2.5 million people under the age of 18 use e-cigarettes, and 85% of middle and high school students who reported using e-cigarettes were buying flavored versions.

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The report noted there were declines in sales from May 2022-Dec. 2022, though they still remain significantly higher than what was seen just prior to the pandemic in early 2020. The decline is likely due to several factors, says the report, including “local and state restrictions on flavored tobacco product sales, FDA regulatory actions, potential COVID-19–associated supply chain disruptions, inflation, and a recent proliferation of large format disposable e-cigarettes capable of delivering thousands of ‘puffs’ that might permit higher nicotine consumption per unit.”

As of Dec. 31, 2022, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah, as well as 378 jurisdictions, have some type of restriction on flavored e-cigarette sales.

FDA: 9 in 10 Calls to Poison Control for E-Cigarette Ingestion Involve Children Under 5

The CDC published a second report Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which found calls to poison control centers regarding children ingesting liquid or inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes have significantly increased in recent years, reports CBS News. The report analyzed data gathered by the National Poison Data System and found from April 2022 and March 2023, there were 7,043 reports made due to potential poisoning by e-cigarettes. Nearly nine in 10 cases (87.8%) involved children under the age of five.

According to the study, the number of reported cases during this 12-month period is approximately double the number reported in 2018, and 64.8% of those cases involved children under the age of five.

In 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned companies may be required to change sales and marketing practices, stop working with retailers who sell their products to minors, and remove flavored products from the market. Citing the appeal of flavored e-cigarettes to children, the FDA then announced in Jan. 2020 that it would prioritize enforcement against certain unauthorized e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco and menthol.

According to The Hill, the FDA issued its first marketing denial orders for approximately 55,000 flavored e-cigarette products in August 2021, and its first marketing denial order for a menthol-flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarette in Oct. 2022.

On Thursday, the FDA announced more crackdowns on vape shops that sell unauthorized disposable vapes, specifically Elf Bar and Esco Bars products, which are illegal to sell because they do not have required marketing permission from the FDA. The agency said it issued 189 formal warning letters so far.

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