FDA proposed crackdown on flavored e-cigs puts Juul on notice

Frederick Owens
September 14, 2018

The products being targeted are: Juul, MarkTen by the Altria Group, the maker of Malboro cigarettes in the US, Blu by Fontem Ventures, Vuse, by British American Tobacco, the company that makes Camel cigarettes, and a device called Logic.

The agency sent letters to Juul, along with other popular e-cigarette brands-as well as to over 1,100 retailers-demanding that they prove that e-cigaretts will stop being sold to the young folks. In just three years, it has captured about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, according to Bloomberg. The four others are owned by cigarette companies.

Gottlieb recently began to ask whether the use of Juul and other similar products by kids is overshadowing any benefit to adult smokers using the devices to help them quit cigarettes.

The owners of Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I'm disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this", Gottlieb said at a press briefing. In a speech in Washington, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a number of steps the government planned to take as part of a broader crackdown on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children. Regulators are considering restricting e-cigarette manufacturers from selling flavored nicotine liquid or forcing the products to undergo an agency review, as reported by CNBC. In May, they were warned, but they are still advertising and selling the violative products. If underage consumption does not justify a ban on tobacco cigarettes (and I don't think it does), it can not possibly justify a ban on competing products that are much safer. The agency also imposed fines - ranging from $279 to $11,182 - on another 130 establishments for repeated offenses.

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"This public campaign will bring these public health messages to online sites that we know teenagers access, and even to high school bathrooms", Gottlieb said.

"I use the word epidemic with great care". Despite the constant warnings that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes would lead to more smoking, consumption of conventional cigarettes by teenagers stubbornly continues to decline, reaching a record low past year in the Monitoring the Future Study, which began in 1975.

Also, the agency is probing manufacturer's online shops for "straw" purchases in which buyers resell products to minors. The FDA is now developing a survey to determine what percentage of youth vapers are using Juul products, Gottlieb said. "I'll be clear. The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products". The FDA declined to release the figures publicly. Former smokers who vape may return to traditional cigarettes if flavored e-cigarettes are no longer available. Ingredients also include glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavor and benzoic acid.

While applauding the FDA for today's actions, some said the agency should increase its efforts to protect the nation's youth from the dangers of vaping. More than 2 million middle-school and high-school students used e-cigarettes in 2017. "Juul is a product for adult smokers". But spokeswoman Victoria Davis said "appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch".

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