Hoping to Fend Off FDA, Juul to Stop Selling Certain e-Cig Flavors, For Now

Allison Inserro

Facing the threat of impending US regulatory action, Juul Labs said Tuesday it would voluntarily stop selling certain flavors of its flavored e-cigarettes in retail stores on a temporary basis, but would continue to sell them online, and announced plans to improve its age-verification system.

“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use JUUL products. We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission,” the company said in a statement on its website, attributed to Kevin Burns, its chief executive officer.

Juul, which controls the majority of the US market for e-cigarettes, said it was never its intent to have children and teens using the product.

But on his personal Twitter account, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said that regulatory action would continue nonetheless.

“We’re deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs. Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps #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." 

In September, Gottlieb announced the agency would be cracking down on e-cigarettes, citing an epidemic of youth vaping.

In a statement on the company website, Juul said flavors like mango, fruit, creme, and cucumber would no longer be sold to all 90,000 retail stores. Retail stores would only sell tobacco and menthol-flavored products—Virginia tobacco, classic tobacco, mint, and menthol.

“We are sensitive to the concern articulated by Commissioner Gottlieb that '[f]lavors play an important role in driving the youth appeal,' and understand that products that appeal to adults also may appeal to youth," the statement said.

The company said it will add additional features to its online ordering system, which currently includes asking for the last 4 digits of the buyer’s Social Security number, which are cross-matched with public records to confirm that the person is at least 21 years of age. The additional features, which the company said will be available by year’s end, will include 2-factor authentication and a real-time photo requirement.

The company also said it was shutting down its social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram and will limit the amount of product a buyer can purchase online.

However, once certain security procedures are in place at retail stores, Juul will resume selling the flavored varieties, assuming the retailer has upgraded its technology to comply with the company's requirements.

Last month, the tobacco company Altria said it would discontinue selling most of its flavored e-cigarettes and stop selling some brands entirely. The company also said it would support a law raising the minimum age to purchase all tobacco products to 21.
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