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FDA Launches ‘Blitz To Crack Down’ On Youth Vaping That Targets JUUL

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Health regulators with the Food and Drug Administration announced a new “crack down” on JUUL electronic cigarettes and other vapor products over fears about teen use.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Tuesday the agency sent warnings to 40 retail and online shops that are selling vapor products, specifically the JUUL, to underage customers as part of a “retailer blitz to crack down” on illicit sales. Officials with the FDA, who fear devices like the JUUL are hooking kids on nicotine, said the warning letter “should serve as notice that we will not tolerate the sale of any tobacco products to youth,” reports the News & Record.

Gottlieb noted that the FDA recently contacted eBay over several listings for JUUL products. Ebay responded by removing the listings and putting in new safeguards to prevent future sales.

“The troubling reality is that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes have become wildly popular with kids,” Gottlieb said in a statement Tuesday. “For this reason, the FDA must – and will – move quickly to reverse these disturbing trends, and, in particular, address the surging youth uptake of JUUL and other products.”

Regulators also directly confronted JUUL Labs over their popular device, demanding the company provide documents on product marketing, toxicological and physiological impacts, details on ingredients and whether there are differing sales among age groups based on flavors. Officials say they want to “better understand” these products and why they appear to be so appealing to teens.

Representatives for JUUL are cooperating with the FDA and say they share concerns over teen use of their product.

“We appreciate that JUUL Labs has already expressed recognition of this problem and has reached out to the FDA and other stakeholders to discuss these concerns,” said Gottlieb. “But we must all recognize that more needs to be done.”

The JUUL is a slim device that closely mimics the nicotine experience of a cigarette while significantly slashing the harms from combustible tobacco. The devices are solely intended for adult smokers trying to quit combustible tobacco. Fear over increased teen experimentation with vaping, however, is being used as justification for blanket and crushing regulation of the vaping industry by the FDA. (RELATED: Anti-Tobacco Groups Sue FDA Over Vape Ban Timing. But Why?)

Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and 10 colleagues recently sent a letter to JUUL CEO Kevin Burns and the FDA that claims JUUL is, “undermining our nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth.”

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told the News & Record that Gottlieb’s announcement is likely the result of the recent “campaign designed to demonize” JUUL products. Gottlieb stressed in the statement that alternative technologies are still a part of their overall strategy to combat adult smoking.

“Make no mistake,” Gottlieb said Tuesday. “We see the possibility for ENDS products like e-cigarettes and other novel forms of nicotine-delivery to provide a potentially less harmful alternative for currently addicted individual adult smokers who still want to get access to satisfying levels of nicotine without many of the harmful effects that come with the combustion of tobacco. But we’ve got to step in to protect our kids.”

Despite the fears of tobacco controllers, both adult and youth smoking rates continue to fall to historic lows.

JUUL emerged as a powerhouse in the vapor market in 2017, and the device currently represent 54.6 percent of sales in the industry. A recent analysis by researchers at Citi, which used data from Nielsen, argues a sharp acceleration in sales for JUUL in the fourth quarter of 2017 is directly responsible for a 6 percent decline in U.S. cigarette volumes in the first quarter of 2018.

Vaping largely eliminates the harms from conventional cigarettes because 95 percent of the carcinogens that cause tobacco-related illnesses are released through combustion, according to Public Health England. E-cigarettes simply heat liquid nicotine, creating an aerosol vapor.

Millions of former adult smokers in the U.S. are embracing the positive science on vaping and using the harm reduction tools to quit combustible cigarettes.

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