Juul halts retail sales for most flavored e-cigarettes amid federal pressure

Juul halts retail sales for most flavored e-cigarettes amid federal pressure
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E-cigarette manufacturer Juul announced Tuesday that it would stop selling its flavor pods in all retail locations amid pressure from the federal government.

Federal regulators are preparing a crackdown to combat the rise of teen vaping, something the company acknowledged in its announcement, saying it would curb its presence on social media.

"As of this morning, we stopped accepting retail orders for our Mango, Fruit, Creme, and Cucumber JUUL pods to the over 90,000 retail stores that sell our product, including traditional tobacco retailers (e.g., convenience stores) and specialty vape shops," Juul CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement.

“By deterring social media promotion of the Juul system by exiting our accounts, we can better prevent teens and non-smokers from ever becoming interested in the device,” he added.

Mango, Fruit, Creme and Cucumber flavors must now be purchased on the company's website, where additional age-verification measures are being added.

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The company also said that it will shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and has asked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to prohibit the posting of any content that promotes the use of cigarettes or e-cigarettes by underage users.

To prevent bulk shipments to people attempting to distribute to minors, online customers are strictly limited to two devices and 15 JUUL pod packages per month, and no more than 10 devices per year, the company announced.

JUUL’s announcement comes amid increased scrutiny from federal regulators.  

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has changed his stance on e-cigarettes in recent months. Last spring, the agency loosened regulations on the products. Gottlieb said he wanted to promote innovation of products that were key to helping adults quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

But as vaping among teenagers has skyrocketed, Gottlieb has clamped down.

He launched a major push to stop e-cigarette sales to minors, accusing manufacturers and retailers of contributing to an “epidemic” of use among kids and teenagers.

Gottlieb is reportedly planning to announce a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations across the country. Flavored e-cigarettes represent the majority of vaping products sold.

The FDA will also impose new rules to curb illegal sales of e-cigarettes products to minors, including age-verification requirements on online sales.

Gottlieb has demanded that five of the products' largest manufacturers come up with adequate plans to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of those under the age of 18, or face a ban on certain flavors.

JUUL has said it wants to cooperate.

“We will be a transparent, engaged, and committed partner in this effort with FDA, state attorneys general, local municipalities, and community organizations,” Burns said in his statement Tuesday.

“We thank Commissioner Gottlieb for his ongoing leadership on this critical issue.”

However, Gottlieb indicated the company’s new policies won’t be enough to head off any new regulations.

“We’re deeply concerned about the epidemic of youth use of e-cigs. Voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps #FDA will soon take,” he said in a tweet. “But we want to recognize actions by JUUL today and urge all manufacturers to immediately implement steps to start reversing these trends.”