After years of heightened scrutiny of Juul’s marketing of e-cigarette products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be preparing to take aggressive action.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the agency is planning to order Juul to take its vaping products off the market. Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Journal reports that the FDA will issue a “denial of marketing” order that will block the sale of Juul’s e-cigarettes in the U.S.
The company popped up on the FDA’s radar four years ago when its vaping products achieved a high level of popularity among young people, including underage users. Critics said the products were stylish and offered fruit flavors that were popular with teens.
After drawing the attention of regulators, Juul made changes to its marketing. Under pressure from the FDA, it dropped its fruit flavor cartridges before the FDA banned them in 2020.
A longtime FDA target
Despite Juul making changes, its actions haven't been enough for the FDA. As he was preparing to leave office in 2019, then-FDA Administrator Dr. Scott Gottleib blamed the company for a huge increase in teen vaping, noting that many young people referred to vaping as “Juuling.”
In an interview with Vox, Gottlieb said there’s “no question” that Juul -- which marketed a device that looked like a USB drive -- “drove a lot of the youth use.”
“I’m not willing to concede the point that the Juul product was responsible — at least in part — for the sharp uptick in youth use,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb’s successors have kept up the pressure by launching an investigation into the company’s business practices, including its marketing.
Investigating the entire industry
The FDA is currently investigating the entire vaping industry to determine if there are ways to discourage or prevent underage use. While the current tobacco- and menthol-flavored vaping products are viewed as a way to wean smokers off of tobacco cigarettes, regulators want to prevent use by teens who could become addicted to nicotine.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that convert liquid into vapor, allowing users to inhale nicotine without the tobacco and other toxic components of traditional cigarettes. The products may be a safer alternative to cigarettes, but critics maintain that they aren’t completely safe.
Some vape devices, like cigarettes, have been found to contain formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals. And some users, particularly people who modify their vape pens, have submitted reports of the products randomly exploding, a defect that can cause disfiguring injuries.
If and when the FDA moves against Juul, the company could appeal the decision through the agency or challenge the decision in court.
Update: 6/23/22 @ 11:32 a.m. (EST)
As reported above, the FDA has issued a marketing denial order for all Juul products in the U.S. marketplace. The agency's full announcement can be read here.