As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of illicit products entering our country. The rise of youth-enticing flavored disposable nicotine vapes from China is a crisis that demands our attention. The influx of these unregulated products poses a direct threat to our nation’s security and the health and safety of our children.

Hundreds of millions of disposable nicotine vapes with kid-friendly flavors like Kiwi Passionfruit Guava Elf Bar and Jungle Juice Hyde Bar are manufactured in China and are shipped across our borders with little to no oversight. These products are cheap, disposable and marketed to our children. Websites like Made-In-China.com have over 400,000 disposable nicotine flavored vapors available for sale from unlawful Chinese manufacturers.

This is not just a public health issue — it’s a national security issue.

Criminal networks and drug cartels are taking advantage of bad open border policies and state prohibitions that have led to the acceleration of a new category of black-market crimes. The influx of Chinese disposable nicotine vapes with enticing flavors is only going to get worse, as recent regulations enacted by the Chinese government have ensured that Chinese vapor manufacturers, with a more tightly-regulated domestic market, will heavily focus on the U.S. market.

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The dangers of these unregulated products are not limited to nicotine. These disposable nicotine vapes have repeatedly been found to have been laced with illicit drugs like marijuana, heroin and fentanyl. Teens across the nation have been hospitalized or have died due to fentanyl-laced vape pens, and health organizations warn that fentanyl-laced vapes are “on the rise.”

Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration has not been able to keep up with the influx of these illicit products. In January 2020, the FDA issued guidelines for ENDS, or electronic nicotine delivery system) products, which included a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes and traditional cartridge-based vapes. However, a dangerous loophole was created when disposables with kid-friendly flavors, which are the primary cause of youth vaping, were excluded from the regulations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2022, 55.3% of youth e-cigarette users reported using disposable e-cigarettes, an increase from 3% in 2019. Among disposable products, those with flavors other than tobacco accounted for 94.7% of the market in 2022. While Congress gave the FDA the authority to ban most disposable flavored vapor products nearly a year ago, the loophole in the law remains, allowing for the continued sale of these dangerous products.

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It’s time for our leaders to take action. 

We need the FDA to step up and start enforcing its regulations. President Joe Biden and Congress must also secure the border and fund enforcement measures to help stop these risky, unregulated disposable nicotine vapes manufactured with kid-enticing flavors in China from entering our country and being made available on American store shelves.

But we must also recognize that this is not just a problem that can be solved through regulation. We must also work to address the underlying demand for these products and provide our youth with the education and support they need to make healthy choices. This requires a holistic approach that involves parents, educators and community leaders working together to address this complex problem.

As the president of the Border Security Alliance, I urge our elected officials to take swift and decisive action to close the loophole that allows these products to be sold and protect the health and well-being of our communities.

Together, we can secure the border and keep our communities safe from these dangerous and subversive products and ensure a healthier future for our children. I urge the FDA, the HHS and the Biden administration to step up and take strong action to protect America’s youth from these unregulated Chinese disposable vapor products.

Jobe Dickinson is the president of the Border Security Alliance and a retired law enforcement officer.