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Seizures Related to Vaping Highlight Risk of E-cigarette Merchants

Vaping, e-cigarette

The FDA said this week that it is investigating 127 incidents of people suffering from seizures after vaping. The news highlights the elevated risk e-cigarette products pose for legal violations, and why payment service providers should know about the many types of products and parts related to vaping to better monitor their portfolios. 

The FDA’s announcement comes four months after the administration stated it was investigating the issue after initial reports of adverse effects. Reports of seizures or other neurological symptoms occurred between 2010 and 2019. 

“Although we still don’t have enough information to determine if e-cigarettes are causing these reported incidents, we believe it’s critical to keep the public updated on the information we’ve received based on the agency’s initial request for reports earlier this year,” said acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD. “We’re committed to monitoring this issue closely and taking additional steps as necessary to protect the public, especially our nation’s youth, from the dangers of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.”

In its investigation, FDA is seeking specific information, such as the specific product use, whether it was modified in any way, and whether other tobacco products, medications, supplements, or other substances were used. The administration is also seeking details about the use of the product preceding the event, including pattern, manner, and timing of use. It may also collect data on where and how the products were purchased.

With vaping on the rise in the US, particularly among teens, the e-cigarette market is flourishing. Although many payment service providers ban online e-cigarette merchants because of reputational risk and the risk of selling age-restricted products, online merchants may attempt to obfuscate their business models to circumvent a PSP’s terms and conditions. To steer clear of regulatory scrutiny, it’s helpful to know more about e-cigarettes to better stop violative merchants.

What is considered an e-cigarette? These products are defined by the FDA as noncombustible tobacco products, but it gets more complex than that. The administration considers e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and related accessories to be components of an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), all of which are subject to FDA regulation. For simplicity’s sake, we refer to these, collectively, as e-cigarettes. 

The FDA lists the following example components of electronic nicotine delivery systems:

  • E-liquids
  • A glass or plastic vial container of e-liquid
  • Cartridges
  • Atomizers
  • Certain batteries
  • Cartomizers and clearomizers
  • Digital display or lights to adjust settings
  • Tank systems
  • Drip tips
  • Flavorings for ENDS
  • Programmable software

Any component intended for use as part of such a system counts as part of it, even if it is sold separately. 

Source: fda.gov

In many respects, these products are currently regulated like tobacco products. For this reason, e-cigarette products and accessories pose an elevated risk for legal violations, and LegitScript recommends they be treated with heightened monitoring and scrutiny. Payment service providers should be well acquainted with vaping terminology and various e-cigarettes parts to better monitor their portfolios. You may be able to identify a complete e-cigarette, but it may be more difficult to identify a battery or cartridge being sold on its own. 

Card brands take tobacco-related violations — including e-cigarette violations — very seriously. LegitScript helps payment service providers onboard and monitor merchants for compliance with the operating regulations of Visa, Mastercard, and other major payment networks. We provide content and transaction laundering monitoring for all merchant types, even those in high-risk sectors such as e-cigarettes. Contact us to learn more.