Crackdown on Juul Labs
Juul Labs, a San Francisco-based maker of e-cigarettes since 2015, has become a focus of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforcement efforts after dozens of undercover illegal sales to supposed minors were made by retailers caught in “compliance checks,” according to Kate Zernike and Sheila Kaplan on the website.
E-cigarettes create a vapor for inhaling out of liquids containing nicotine and flavorings. They have become very popular with teenagers and children both for their tastes and their easy conceal-ability.
Juul has been on a meteoric rise to the top of the U.S. electronic cigarette market with a 40-percent share. Every month, the company manufactures 20 million products, including devices and cartridges, according to company officials. The company entered the mainstream retail marketplace in 2015. The e-cig is sold in the form of a pen or a USB device. Juul’s market-share growth has drawn criticism from anti-tobacco advocates, who say that the discreet shape of the product makes it easy to hide its usage, including by teenagers.
“The FDA has been conducting a large-scale undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes, specifically Juul products, to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers,” says FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, wants the government to go further by “taking off the market Juul flavors like mango and cool cucumber that clearly appeal to kids.”
The FDA has issued more than 40 warning letters to retailers, many of them 7-Eleven stores. It has also demanded health and marketing data from Juul Labs.
”We don’t yet fully understand why these products are so popular among youth. But it’s imperative that we figure it out, and fast. These documents may help us get there,” Gottlieb says.
In response, Juul Labs has said, “Juul Labs agrees with the FDA that illegal sales of our product to minors is unacceptable. We already have in place programs to identify and act upon these violations at retail and online marketplaces, and we will have more aggressive plans to announce in the coming days. We are working with the FDA, lawmakers, parents and community leaders to combat underage use, and we will continue working with all interested parties to keep our product away from youth.”
The FDA is launching a new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan under which it will make multiple efforts toward e-cigarette makers in hopes of ending marketing to underage customers. Meanwhile, Juul Labs has announced that it will take additional decisive action by actively supporting state and federal initiatives to raise the minimum age to 21+ to purchase tobacco products as part of an initial investment of $30 million over the next three years, dedicated to independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement efforts. The company says that it is “committed to combatting underage use of its products and is engaging with the FDA, members of Congress, local and state officials and members of the public health community on this important issue.