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Juul plans age-locked liquid cartridges to placate U.S. regulators

The e-cigarette maker says it is willing to make major adjustments to stay in U.S. market

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Photo (c) Josie Desmarais - Getty Images
Juul, the maker of a popular e-cigarette product, has reportedly told federal regulators that it is willing to redesign its vaporizer so that it unlocks only for people 21 years of age or older.

The Wall Street Journal quotes people “familiar with the matter” as saying that the company is willing to make this accommodation in order to keep its products legal in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate e-cigarette products, as well as all tobacco products. For manufacturers of e-cigarettes, the companies must demonstrate that their products present a “net benefit to public health.” 

That’s widely interpreted as meaning the products help adult smokers kick their cigarette habit by switching to e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in vapor form. While that’s a noble objective, public health officials have sounded the alarm over a huge increase in young people getting hooked on nicotine through “vaping.”

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr, Scott Gottlieb has accused Juul, in particular, of luring young people into the nicotine habit through vaping.

Juul proclaims its innocence 

Juul, in which tobacco company Altria is a stakeholder, has professed its innocence. It says it intends to provide the FDA with more than 250,000 pages of scientific research and marketing materials, as well as an update on its efforts to curb illegal sales to minors, to prove that it has not been marketing to young people. 

Juul also says it plans to submit additional paperwork over the next three to five years, including an application to market its products as less harmful than cigarettes, to show that its mission has been to help smokers kick their smoking habit.

The company has reportedly submitted an application to the FDA that says its product can combat underage use of e-cigarettes by locking the cartridge where the vaping liquid is stored. That would prevent a user from replacing the liquid with one that is more desirable.

Juul has been working on this solution for some time. It has introduced products in the U.K. and Canada that allow the cartridge to be locked or unlocked using a Bluetooth connection to a mobile app. 

Users must submit a photo of themselves and government identification. The app also allows users to monitor their nicotine consumption.

The change addresses a new U.S. law that bans sweet and fruity e-cigarette cartridges because underage users tend to favor these flavors rather than the tobacco flavored liquids that are used to wean smokers away from cigarettes.

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