Most Americans and all news media are aware of the invasion of the United States at our southern border. There is a second invasion that is not on many radar screens. It is an attack on America's youth by foreigners, mostly Red Chinese.

As a father, former State Auditor of Alabama and husband to a member of the Alabama State School Board, I see and am concerned with the surge in vaping among our students and teenagers. Vape use has exploded in Alabama schools to the point that several counties are now creating new programs called "Vape Courts" to address the growing illegal vaping epidemic. 

Disposable, fruit-flavored, and candy-flavored vapes are illegal in the United States, yet they're still readily available, mostly from China. Why? The answer is complex and has concerned parents wringing their hands.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acted as if it would crack down on vaping in 2020 by requiring products to be approved for sale. To date, only 23 e-cigarette products have sought and won approval, and they are all tobacco-flavored. Yet, illegal products, notably the popular flavored vapes, remain widely available, both online and in stores.

There is no higher priority than keeping our children healthy and safe. The FDA should share that goal, which is why they need to act and stop illegal flavored vapes.

At a minimum, the FDA should enforce its own rules.

There is a gaping lapse in enforcement of illegal, disposable e-cigarettes by the FDA. These products, most of which are manufactured in China, are fueling the surge in youth vaping, and it is imperative that the FDA enforce its own rules and regulate this market.

In 2020, the FDA banned pod-based e-cigarettes but failed to apply any restrictions to disposable e-cigarettes. This opened a loophole through which thousands of new, disposable e-cigarette products have flowed.

Illegal, disposable e-cigarettes are designed to be "beginner friendly." With candy and fruit-flavored products, wrapped in colorful packaging and being pushed on TikTok and other social media channels, these products are deliberately aimed toward kids.

In fact, youth use of disposable vaping products is up 2,188% since 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control. These new users cite flavors as a major reason they began using e-cigarettes.

The increasing size and strength of disposable e-cigarettes have resulted in a generation of products with nicotine levels comparable to a carton or more of cigarettes, while price drops have nearly tripled the purchasing power for price-sensitive youth.

It is past time for the FDA to take action to control e-cigarettes to protect children. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that the FDA is failing to prevent the distribution and sale of illegal and dangerous disposable e-cigarettes and vape products flooding into the United States from China. We cannot allow China to infiltrate the U.S. market with illegal vaping products, circumventing the FDA.

With approximately 90% of vaping products illegally entering the United States coming from China, it is more urgent than ever that the federal government take action to halt the importation of these illegal products from one of our foremost adversaries.

FDA, do your job before a generation of our youth goes up in smoke.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].

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