In its newest effort to appease regulators, electronic-cigarette maker Juul mentioned Thursday it will cease promoting its creme-, fruit-, berry-, and mango-flavored pods within the US till the merchandise have been reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration. The firm will, nonetheless, proceed to promote its fashionable menthol-based flavors, together with mint.
Juul has confronted a variety of public setbacks in current months. The firm is being investigated by the FDA, in addition to the Federal Trade Commission, federal prosecutors in California, and a number of other state attorneys normal for promoting that allegedly misled customers and made unverified claims about its merchandise’ security.
Adding to Juul’s woes, the e-cigarette trade has been underneath intense scrutiny since a mysterious vaping-related sickness, now often known as EVALI, unfold throughout the US, sickening practically 1,500 individuals and killing 33. Those sicknesses—which aren’t linked to any particular firm, product, or ingredient—have principally hit individuals vaping THC, which Juul doesn’t promote. But the outbreak spurred a number of congressional hearings on the security of the merchandise and elevated stress on e-cigarette makers to display their merchandise are secure and don’t goal kids.
Juul says it helps the FDA’s approval course of. “We must reset the vapor 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,” mentioned Juul CEO KC Crosthwaite in an announcement. Crosthwaite, who was named CEO in late September, beforehand was an govt at tobacco firm Altria, which owns a 35 p.c stake in Juul.
The firm additionally has pulled all its digital, TV, and print promoting and stopped funding a poll measure in San Francisco that may overturn town’s ban on e-cigarettes, and it has stopped lobbying the Trump administration. Juul eliminated sweet and fruit-flavored pods from shops in 2018, promoting them solely on its web site, the place patrons have to be over 21 to buy them.
Thursday’s announcement did little to reassure antivaping activists. In an announcement, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s spending $160 million to cease teen vaping, mentioned: “Juul’s decision to keep mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes on the shelves is a page right out of the tobacco industry’s playbook.”
Many well being advocates, together with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have known as for an entire ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Continuing to market menthol and mint pods, they are saying, will do little to discourage teen vaping, which has skyrocketed lately. According to the CDC, from 2017 to 2018, youth vaping elevated by 78 p.c. One in 5 excessive schoolers say they’ve vaped within the final 30 days. Meredith Berkman, co-founder of the group Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes, says Juul’s resolution will influence teenage vaping “not at all.” She says the announcement solely “underscore(s) the continuing duplicity of Juul.”
In September, the Trump administration threatened to ban all flavored vaping merchandise, together with mint and menthol. One month and greater than 500 EVALI instances later, the ban has not materialized.
Garrett Nelson, a senior fairness analyst at CFRA Research, says mint and menthol account for 85 p.c of Juul’s gross sales in US shops, the place Juul is not promoting fruit or dessert flavors. According to knowledge from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, over 60 p.c of excessive schoolers use mint-flavored e-cigarettes, practically the identical quantity as use fruit-flavored pods. Juul doesn’t disclose its on-line gross sales.
Outside the US, in international locations just like the Philippines, Juul’s mango and creme flavors are nonetheless accessible. In France, the UK, and Italy, the corporate continues to promote a number of fruit and dessert flavors together with apple, berry, and vanilla.