Health officials from the Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday a nationwide effort to reduce and prevent underage use of e-cigarette brands. The crackdown focuses on popular e-cigarette brands such as JUUL, MyBlu, KandyPens, and Suorin. The government agency aims to target regular and online retailers marketing their products toward children and teenagers.
In an official statement released April 6, the FDA kickstarted their effort to crackdown on e-cigarette retailers and will continue to the end of the month. So far, the FDA has reported it has uncovered dozens of violations of the law and issued forty warnings to retail and online stores.
“Let me be clear to retailers,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “This blitz, and resulting actions, should serve as notice that we will not tolerate the sale of any tobacco products to youth.”
The nationwide operation brought investigators to 7-Eleven storefronts, Shell gas stations, Cumberland Farms convenience stores and vaping shops.
Electronic cigarettes may be marketed using deceptive tactics toward younger audiences. Often advertised as an alternative for traditional cigarettes, the electronic variety sport flavors which may appeal to a younger audience who have never smoked before. Flavors include, for example: crème brûlée, fruit medley, mango, and many others.
Juul (Pronounced JOOL), is one of the most popular electronic cigarette brand on the market. Sales have skyrocketed over the past two years and recent industry figures estimate the company accounts for 55% of the U.S. market. That’s a blistering 50% jump in the market from 2016. Called “the iPhone of e-cigs,” by Men’s Fitness, these sleek vapes resemble USB flash drives. Each battery-powered vape, which is good for about 200 puffs, contains an amount of nicotine equal to an entire pack of cigarettes.
Beyond working with online retailers such as eBay, the FDA is collaborating directly with Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers to hold the companies accountable for the way their products are marketed and used.
In a letter to Juul from the FDA, the government agency requested documents relating to marketing, research, effects of product design, health impact, complaints, and more. The company has been cooperating.
"We are working with the FDA, lawmakers, parents and community leaders to combat underage use, and will continue working with all interested parties to keep our product away from youth," the company said in a statement.
Purchasing an electronic cigarette or other product from Juul isn’t difficult. There is an age gate upon hopping to their website that asks if your over the age of 21. To buy one of their starter kits, which only costs $50, you’ll have to join their community by supplying and verifying your age, name, address, and other public information. It’s unclear how the company verifies or qualifies your data if, for example, you life and input false information.
To Juul’s credit, however, CEO Kevin Burns recently released a message condemning the selling of the company’s products to minors and nonsmokers.
“Let me be clear: we do not want teens or any other non-smokers to ever use our product. I'm not only a JUUL employee, but more importantly I am a parent of teenagers. I never want my 18-year-old-son or 15-year-old daughter to try JUUL. The product was designed with adult smokers in mind and their need to break the grip of cigarette dependency.”
How do you feel about electronic cigarettes? Are you a smoker yourself? Let us know in the comments.