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Is the FDA using undercover agents to secretly police vape shops?

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According to a recent surge in social media posts, vape shops all over the country are being bombarded with visits from undercover agents hired by the FDA. The FDA deeming regulations officially went into effect on August 8, 2016, and there are several old practices that are now considered illegal in the eyes of the federal government. One particular infraction is the sales of e-cigs or vaping products to minors.

In many circumstances, vape shop employees are being questioned by undercover agents during the sale to a customer with a particularly youthful appearance. In some cases, the customer is a legal adult. In others, the employee simply made a mistake and forgot to ask them for proper identification. But the possible legal violations against the FDA deeming regulations do not stop there.

Undercover agents can also issue citations and fines to vape shops and employees if they accidentally forget to charge their customers for sampling e-liquids. Prior to the August 8 deadline, most vapes shops offered free samples, which is now illegal. Post-August 8, many vape shops are now charging a very small sampling fee of perhaps $0.50 per blend. These FDA special agents can also issue citations for improper labeling of products or for helping their customers build coils or install wicking materials, both of which is now illegal thanks to the FDA deeming regulations.

Undercover agents is not a new concept

Restaurants and nightclubs have had to deal with the pressures of unwanted inspections from federal agents for decades. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a team of employees who are younger than 21-years of age but actually act and dress much older. When these undercover agents walk into a bar or restaurant and attempt to order a cocktail, the server or bartender will be in a world of trouble if they fail to ask for proper identification.

In nearly all infractions, the business typically receives a legal citation and a hefty fine. The employee usually also receives a separate fine and citation as well. In some cases, the employee must be immediately terminated, depending on the jurisdiction. And establishments with high numbers of infractions can have their liquor license revoked or their doors permanently closed.

Using undercover agents for alcohol regulations is not a new concept, but the procedure is still very new to the vaping industry. Unfortunately, much of the legal ramifications remain the same. Thanks to the FDA deeming regulations of August 8, the World of Vaping be forever changed.

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