Florida Retail Federation CEO Shalley: FDA Needs to 'Step Up' Against Illicit Chinese Vapes

Florida Retail Federation CEO Shalley: FDA Needs to 'Step Up' Against Illicit Chinese Vapes

Jackson Bakich
Jackson Bakich
May 10, 2024

Florida Retail Federation (FRF) President and CEO Scott Shalley spoke with The Floridian in an exclusive interview regarding the sale of illicit Chinese vape products throughout the United States.

In the state of Florida specifically, however, these products have dominated the disposable vape market. Chinese-owned companies such as Elf Bar, Fume, and HQD accounted for over 85% ($355 million combined) of the market ($410 million) in 2023. Also, Florida has seen vape sales upward the amount of nine times compared to states such as New York.

None of these brands are FDA-approved.

FRF has sounded the alarm on these products alongside Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) who recently signed a bill cracking down on these products.

When asked about how consumers should approach buying vapes with the possibility of it coming from China (illegally), Mr. Shalley said the federal government and the FDA need to “step up their efforts” on this issue.

“There is a tremendous amount of confusion and lack of clarity, and we’re encouraging the federal government, the FDA to step up their efforts to stop the influx of illicit products and provide clarity to which ones have been approved. In general, it’s very hard to differentiate between approved and illicit products. The illicit products are packaged very nicely,” said Mr. Shalley.

He continued by adding that retailers aren’t realizing they’re selling illegal products just like consumers don’t realize they're using them.

“I think retailers and consumers alike make assumptions based on that they have been vetted and approved,” said Shalley. “So, the only guidance we can give at this time is that most of those products are single-use flavored devices (disposables). And also, try to shop with more established, trusted retailers. But in the interim, we’re just looking for that clarity and assistance, both in the approval process, but also assistance in terms of enforcement, stopping the product from coming in through our ports.”

Furthermore, we asked the FRF President why Florida is such a hotspot for vape products compared to other states, and how exactly they are getting in the Sunshine State in bulk.

“Florida in particular, for one reason or another is being targeted and obviously our ports deal with a massive amount of freight, and many times the shipments are mislabeled or labeled as something other than what they are,” said Shalley. “So, it comes down to enforcement and resources at the ports in particular because we do see nine times the amount of illicit product here in the state than anyone else does. So, it’s a challenge for sure.”

He also stated, “Across the board, it’s muddy waters. The retailers and consumers deserve to be better informed and better protected and we’re hoping that the federal government and others start to recognize it for the problem that it is.”

Shalley mentioned that the FRF was happy with how Florida’s HB 1007Nicotine Products and Dispensing Devices – but there is “room for improvement.”

Gov. DeSantis signed the bill in late April.

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Jackson Bakich

Jackson Bakich

Born in Orlando but raised in Lake County, Florida, Jackson Bakich is currently a senior at Florida State University. Growing up in the sunshine state, Bakich co-hosted the political talk radio show "Lake County Roundtable" (WLBE) and was a frequent guest for "Lake County Sports Show" (WQBQ). Currently, he is the Sports Editor of the FSView and the co-host of "Tomahawk Talk" (WVFS), a sports talk radio program covering Florida State athletics in Tallahassee.

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