Juul Labs will cease US online sales of its fruity-flavoured e-cigarette pods as it battles a “lack of trust” and pressure from regulators over the health effects of vaping.
The move comes amid rising concerns e-cigarettes — once lauded as a less harmful alternative to the traditional form — and, in particular, companies’ flavoured versions of the devices, have encouraged underage vaping.
Pending a review from the Food and Drug Administration, Juul said on Thursday it was suspending sales of its non-tobacco-, non-menthol-based flavours in the US. The flavour cartridges — ranging from mango and creme to fruit and cucumber — are domestically available only via the company’s web site, which it said has strict age verification controls.
The start-up acknowledged “the lack of trust in our industry” and said it regarded the Food and Drug Administration’s practices were the best way to determine what role its products could play in helping wean adult smokers off traditional cigarettes, while also keeping them away from minors. Juul specifically referred to the regulators premarket tobacco application process and its “appropriate for the protection of the public health” standard.
“We must reset the vapour category by earning the trust of society and working cooperatively with regulators, policymakers, and stakeholders to combat underage use while providing an alternative to adult smokers,” Juul’s newly-installed chief executive, KC Crosthwaite, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has threatened an outright ban on flavoured versions of e-cigarettes, which have been criticised for encouraging underage vaping and getting young people addicted to nicotine.
US medical experts have tied hundreds of cases of lung damage to e-cigarettes. At least 30 deaths nationally have been linked to vape-related illnesses. Juul has not been blamed by public officials for the mysterious illnesses, but has found itself in the regulatory crosshairs.
Mr Crosthwaite took charge at Juul in September, leaving tobacco group Altria, which had a 35 per cent stake in the start-up. He commenced a review of the company’s policies and practices including ceasing all advertising of the product in the US and refraining from lobbying the government on its draft flavour guidance.
Uncertainty over Juul’s future was a major factor in the breakdown in $200bn merger talks between Altria and Philip Morris International.