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Hawaii health officials warns sellers of cartridge e-cigs to stop or face FDA action

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The state Health Department is warning local companies that make, distribute or sell flavored cartridge or pod-based e-cigarettes to stop, or risk enforcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced this as an enforcement priority Jan. 2, and will be cracking down on these products due to the significant rise in vaping among youth across the U.S. Companies have until the end of the month to comply.

“E-cigarettes and vaping products are unsafe, unregulated and illegal for persons under the age of 21,” said health department director Bruce Anderson in a news release. “States across the nation are now looking to the FDA for guidance and details on the federal agency’s planned enforcement actions. In the meantime, Hawaii is letting companies know what’s on the horizon.”

Cartridge-based e-cigarettes are smaller, according to the department, and are often called “pods,” “vapes,” or “JUUL,” a popular brand. These hi-tech e-cigarettes are popular with middle and high school students because they are easy to conceal, and users do not emit large plumes when exhaling.

The devices resemble thumb-drives or highlighters, and are sometimes decorated with covers in various designs, including camouflage and Hello Kitty.

Youth sometimes decorate and personalize these devices with thin sticker type “skins” in Hello Kitty and camouflage designs. Users do not emit large plumes when they exhale, making the devices easy to use discreetly.

“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety and well-being of our youth,” said Anderson. “The high concentration of nicotine in the pod-based devices can negatively affect the developing brain of youth, impairing learning, attention and memory, disrupting sleep, and causing mood disorders. Nicotine also primes the developing brain for addiction to other substances.”

The department said it has advocated for vaping prevention policies since the 2012 legislative session, and will be advocating for increased regulation this year, including a state restriction on flavored tobacco products; additional taxes on e-cigarettes; and a ban on the shipping and handling of e-cigarettes to individual customers in Hawaii.

Prevention efforts include funding for 14 youth intervention organizations in every county, and new social media campaigns to be launched in February.

The health department said the FDA is not focused on liquid flavors for refillable e-cigarettes, also popular with Hawaii youth, at this time. More information on talking to children about the dangers of e-cigarettes is available at

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