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U.S. officials block Elf Bar-maker from importing 1.4 million illegal e-cigarettes

By Associated Press
Published: December 14, 2023, 9:48am

WASHINGTON — U.S. agents recently seized more than 1.4 million illegal e-cigarettes from the Chinese manufacturer behind Elf Bar, a line of fruity disposable vapes that has become the top brand among American teens, officials said Thursday.

Officials pegged the value of the e-cigarettes seized at Los Angeles International Airport at $18 million and said they included several related brands, including Lost Mary, Funky Republic and EB Create, according to a statement from the Food and Drug Administration. The agency announced the seizure with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which helped conduct the operation.

Many of the containers were deliberately mislabeled as toys, shoes and other household items in order to evade customs, the agencies said. FDA records show regulators intercepted the shipment on Nov. 6 from iMiracle Shenzhen, which makes Elf Bar and other disposable electronic cigarettes.

It’s the first time authorities have reported successfully blocking the company from getting its vapes into the U.S., where they have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales since late 2021. In May, the FDA instructed customs officials to begin seizing shipments from iMiracle and several other companies.

The confiscated products will be destroyed, the FDA said.

“Those shamelessly attempting to smuggle illegal e-cigarettes, particularly those that appeal to youth, into this country should take heed of today’s announcement,” Brian King, FDA’s tobacco chief, said in a statement.

Elf Bar is the most visible of thousands of brands of cheap, disposable e-cigarettes that have poured into the U.S. from China in recent years. Its products come in flavors like strawberry melon and triple berry ice and claim to contain 5,000 “puffs” per device. After the FDA placed the import ban on some of its products, iMiracle rebranded under several new product names, including EB Design.

The products remain widely available in convenience stores and vape shops throughout the U.S.

In the latest government survey, 56% of teens who vape said they used Elf Bar, more than double the rate of any other e-cigarette brand, according to federal figures.

A spokesperson for iMiracle did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.