Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Medical | By

FDA Gets Tough on Juul, Other E-Cigarette Makers

FDA Gets Tough on Juul, Other E-Cigarette Makers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes from Juul Labs and other companies as it grapples with an "epidemic" of youth e-cigarette use that threatens to create a new generation of nicotine addicts, the agency's head said on Wednesday.

The FDA noted that, over the past few years, e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product by youth.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will soon release data that show a "substantial increase" in youth vaping this year compared with 2017. They included chains such as 7-Eleven, Casey's General Store, Circle K, Cumberland Farms, Kwik Trip, Sheetz, Speedway, Tom Thumb and Wawa, as well as gas station banners like BP, Chevron, Citgo, Conoco, Exxon, Marathon, Mobil, Murphy USA, Phillips, RaceTrac, Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Valero. But health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains.

During the 60-day waiting period, the FDA plans to investigate the five companies' marketing and sales practices, with possible "boots on the ground inspections", Gottlieb said. "Hindsight, and the data now available to us, reveal these trends". "These five brands now comprise over 97 percent of the US market for e-cigarettes", the FDA said.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' president Matthew Myers, the FDA has made a crucial step toward curtailing youth use of e-cigarettes. They noted the survey did not ask specifically about Juul, a sleek, heavily-marketed e-cigarette brand that exploded onto the market and accounts for 70 percent of USA sales, according to analyst estimates.

Gottlieb echoed those concerns, saying he's anxious about the effects of nicotine in e-cigarettes on the developing brain, and that a proportion of teenagers who use the devices will end up on regular cigarettes. Companies whose products are pulled from shelves will have to prove a net positive public health benefit before sales can resume.

Juul Labs said it would work with the FDA on its request and is committed to preventing underage use of its product. The FDA may also limit the sale of certain flavored products, Gottlieb said. Youth tobacco prevention is a priority for our companies.


Shares of British American Tobacco were up almost 6 percent and shares of cigarette-maker Imperial Brands PLC were up more than 3 percent.

The FDA also sent more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers found to be selling vapes to minors during an "undercover nationwide blitz" this summer.

Gottlieb called the action "historic" and said it was the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the agency's history.

E-cigarette makers argue the devices help adult smokers give up cigarettes - potentially saving them from related illnesses - by giving a nicotine fix without the smoke and smell of combustible cigarettes. "Juul is a product for adult smokers".

"In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate and the existential threat to these products, and as they did, these risks have mounted", Gottlieb said.

Many use fruit- or candy-flavored liquids that critics say appeal to kids, and risk addicting them to nicotine.

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