On November 13th, Juul announced that it was suspending sales of most Juul pod flavors sold in stores, shutting down social media promotions, and tightening online sales accessibility to minors.
This action was in response to pressure from the FDA stemming from the September 12 ultimatum to prove they could keep their products away from Kids or face severe penalties.
In September, the FDA requested five major e-cigarette manufacturers, including Juul, to explain how they plan to combat the use of their products by minors. The FDA said it was looking into potential steps to eliminate the sale of flavored products.
Juul’s response to pressure from the FDA suggests a significant sign of retrenchment by an industry that claims to have set out to offer devices to help smokers quit but now shoulders blame for a new public health problem: nicotine addiction among nonsmoking Teens.
“Our intent was never to have youth use Juul products. But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem. We must solve it,” Juul CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.
But critics and public health advocates said the company had no choice, especially after the FDA seized documents related to marketing strategies from the company’s headquarters in October. Meanwhile, some states were also investigating whether its tactics were directly aimed at minors.
“We’re deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs. Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps that the FDA will soon take,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Director.
An agency official told USA TODAY last month that the FDA plans to ban convenience store and gas station sales of e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol. Stricter age-verification requirements are also planned for online sales of e-cigarettes.
According to Dr. Rachel Boykan of Stoney Brook University School of Medicine, “Nicotine may disrupt the formation of circuits in the brain that control attention and learning, And there is a higher risk of Teens subsequently becoming tobacco smokers.”
The crux of the problem centers on what nicotine does to the teen brain. It is especially damaging in an area called the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in emotional control, decision-making, and impulse regulation.
Nicotine is a lifelong burden. Vape manufacturers have their hands in your pocket, distracting your thought process while continuously endangering Teens health as well as to endanger the development of critical thinking skills. .
Caroline Renzulli, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called Juul’s announcement too little too late. “Juul’s social media marketing fueled its popularity with kids,” she said. “Now that it has captured 75 percent of the e-cigarette market, Juul no longer needs to do social media marketing because its young customers are doing it for them.”
By now, students have their own vocabulary built around Juul — “juuling” has become a verb.
Students began juuling as teachers’ backs were turned. They filled school bathrooms for juuling breaks. And it appeared to school officials that students were just diligently recharging flash drives on laptops.
Nicotine, the naturally occurring chemical in tobacco, is the addictive element that binds smokers to cigarettes and vapors to Juul and other e-cigarettes. Teenagers, whose brains are still developing, need less exposure to nicotine than adults in order to become addicted.
Maura Healey, the attorney general for Massachusetts, echoed that sentiment. “Unfortunately, much of the damage has already been done,” she said. “Our investigation into Juul’s practices, including if it was knowingly selling and marketing its products to young people, will continue.”
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the FDA said: “Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps the FDA will soon take. But we want to recognize actions by Juul today and urge all manufacturers to immediately implement steps to start reversing these trends.”
Under Juul’s plan, the sale of tobacco, mint and menthol flavored products would continue in retail stores. Juul said those products “mirror what is currently available for combustible cigarettes”.
To prevent some users from reverting to menthol cigarettes, Juul said it would keep mint Juul pods as well as tobacco and menthol flavors for its devices in retail stores.
In August, Gottlieb told USA TODAY that the FDA was weighing the benefits of e-cigarettes in helping adults quit smoking against the risk to young people who become addicted to tobacco through vaping.
Many Smokers prefer flavored e-liquid when they are trying to quit smoking, but Gottlieb said that he was prepared to make vaping less attractive to adults if it reduces the harm to Teens.
Dr. Gottlieb also said the agency could target “cartridge-based products,” such as the USB-sized Juul, which is favored by teenagers and sold in convenience stores. Adults tend to use bulkier “open tank” vaping products, he said.
JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns said the company “will work proactively with FDA in response to its request.”