The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that it’s cracking down on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes—such as Juuls—in hopes of combatting youth use of these popular products.
Over the past few years, e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity among young users, but Juuls are perhaps the best known brand. These sleek vapes, which are not legally available to minors, resemble flash drives, come in a wide array of flavors and contain as much nicotine per cartridge—which lasts about 200 puffs—as an entire pack of cigarettes. Juuling has infiltrated schools across the country, sounding alarm bells for educators, parents and lawmakers.
With Tuesday’s announcement, issued by Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the FDA is voicing its commitment to solving that problem. In the release, Gottlieb lays out a number of ongoing and planned efforts to curtail youth use of Juuls and other vaping brands, including Myblu and KandyPens.
As a first step, the FDA on April 6 began “a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz” on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors, online and in stores. The agency discovered numerous violations of tobacco law through the blitz, according to the announcement, and has since March sent out 40 warning letters to retailers found to be illegally selling Juuls to minors.
The FDA is also working with eBay to remove existing and prevent future listings for Juul products on its website, according to the announcement, since the vapes often find their way to kids through resellers.
The agency is also working directly with Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers to hold the companies accountable for the way their products are marketed and used. A letter sent to Juul on Tuesday demands a number of documents related to the company’s marketing, research and design practices, with the hope of better understanding why the company’s products are so attractive to underage users.
The announcement also hints at future “enforcement actions focused on companies that we think are marketing products in ways that are misleading to kids” and ongoing “science-based campaigns to educate youth about the dangers of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.”
Juul has in the past been vocal about its opposition to youth use of its products, and the company says it runs a number of internal initiatives aimed at keeping its vapes out of the wrong hands — efforts that the FDA recognizes in its announcement.
“Juul Labs agrees with the FDA that illegal sales of our product to minors are unacceptable,” Juul representatives said in a statement provided to the reporter. “We already have in place programs to prevent and, if necessary, identify and act upon these violations at retail and online marketplaces, and we will announce additional measures 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.”
Nonetheless, the FDA says in its announcement that “we must all recognize that more needs to be done. As we’ve said before, there is no acceptable number of children using tobacco products. We share the belief that these products should never be marketed to, sold to, or used by kids — and we need to make every effort to prevent kids from getting hooked on nicotine.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes months after the FDA first said that it would take steps to limit the impact of tobacco use on public health. A plan moved forward in March with an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to limit the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme.