JUUL, the maker of the nation’s most popular e-cigarette, is taking steps to keep the device out of the hands of children and teens.
The company announced Tuesday that it plans to take most of its flavored tobacco cartridges off store shelves and JUUL has shut down all social media pages.
The move comes before the FDA’s anticipated announcement that would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products in convenience stores and gas stations.
JUUL said it has stopped filling store orders for its mango, fruit, creme and cucumber pods but not menthol and mint. It will sell all flavors through its website and limit sales to those 21 and older.
Nancy Cripe, of Tobacco Free Allen County, said JUUL came on to the market in 2015. She said by Dec. 2017 it had taken over 50 percent of the market and in July it had taken over 60 percent.
Now, JUUL accounts for more than 70 percent of the market share, Cripe said.
“There’s a whole lot of use of these devices going on and a lot of us who are older are not recognizing them when we see them,” she said during a presentation to staff and faculty at Norwell High School.
Public health experts have complained that the fruity, candy-like flavors found in e-cigarettes are targeted directly at teenagers.
They cite the growing rate of use in those groups as proof.
“The increase that we’re seeing and the renormalization that we’re seeing among our youth is a concern because we certainly don’t want them to go down a path of lifelong addiction to nicotine and tobacco,” said Miranda Stitznagle, Director, Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission at the Indiana State Department of Health.
The company released a statement that says in part:
“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use JUUL products. We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission. Our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products. But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem. We must solve it.”
In September, the FDA gave JUUL and other e-cigarette makers 60 days to prove they could keep the products out of the hands of kids. Then the agency launched a “the real cost” campaign aimed specifically at educating teens about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
In October, the FDA went after more than 20 e-cigarette companies seeking proof they might be marketing to kids. That came on the heels of a series of busts where the FDA found retailers illegally selling e-cigarettes to minors.
Mitch Zeller, FDA’s Director of the Center for Tobacco Products, calls the bust the largest coordinated enforcement action in the history of the FDA.
“We announced that as part of this blitz we found over 1,300 illegal sales of just e-cigarettes to minors in our enforcement program between June and August,” said Zeller.
E-cigarettes are generally considered a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have warned the nicotine in them is harmful to developing brains.